Kennebunk High School science teacher Melissa Luetje was recently named York County Teacher of the Year. Tammy Wells hhoto

KENNEBUNK – Melissa Luetje’s eyes brighten and she is animated as she talks about science and about her students at Kennebunk High School.

She teaches a variety of classes, from biology to physics, to environmental science. She’s also pretty passionate about what’s happening in the marsh at Cape Porpoise and at other locales, which is being explored by students in the KHS Gulf of Maine Field Studies class.

“The natural world and phenomena that drives that natural world is fascinating and beautiful,” the science teacher said during a break from teaching in her classroom on Friday.

Luetje, a science teacher at KHS for 19 years, was recently named York County Teacher of the Year – one of 16 county teachers of the year announced in ceremonies hosted by the Maine Department of Education and others late last week. She and the 15 other county teachers from around Maine will undergo a year of service and are candidates for Maine Teacher of the Year.

Having an educator named York County Teacher of the Year is pretty cool, said KHS Principal Jeremie Sirois.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” said Sirois. “In the two years that I have been here, I find Melissa to be an amazing teacher and person. I enjoy working with her and I was excited to see her get the recognition she deserve … her body of work in the classroom speaks for itself.”


“I’ve always been a science person,” said Luetje. She is particularly enthusiastic about the Gulf of Maine Field Studies program, a collaboration of Regional School Unit 21, Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, and the Newbury, Massachusetts-based Gulf of Maine Institute.

Kennebunk High School science teacher Melissa Luetje. Courtesy Photo

Students are doing real life work, she said.

“They’re making an impact in their community and trying to find solutions around climate change, and the life skills they learn will help them navigate complex issues, where they have to take into account multiple stakeholder points of view,” said Luetje.

Currently, students in the Gulf of Maine Field Studies class are examining the marshes at municipal property off Langsford Road in Cape Porpoise. Students are collecting data on an invasive plant called phragmites australis, also known as the common reed, which she said is prolific, and can crowd out other, native species. They are looking to determine if the biodiversity of the marsh is being impacted.

“Marshes are imperative. They are a giant sponge, and a buffer against storm surges,” said Luetje, helping protect roadways and homes and other property.

Ceremonies honoring the 16 Maine County Teachers of the Year took place on Friday in Augusta.


“It’s such an honor to celebrate these extraordinary teachers and elevate them as true ambassadors for all Maine teachers and the teaching profession,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. She noted the teachers were nominated by students, parents and fellow educators, “for the difference they make every day in the lives of their students, for their innovation and leadership, and for their commitment to their schools and communities. You are all true heroes, and the Maine Department of Education is so grateful for all you do.”

Maine County Teachers of the Year serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide throughout the year.

Luetje said the platform for the year of service is yet to be determined, but expects to know more soon.

“We have the opportunity to elevate teachers voices and shine a light on the importance of public education,” she said. Teachers are scared about the politicization of classroom teaching, she added.

She also wants to help shine another light.

“I hope this honor allows me the opportunity to really talk about how wonderful this district really is, the wonderful people I work with and the tremendous students we have,” Luetje said.

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