It was an all-staff event last week as teachers and other RSU 21 employees gathered as a group to hear from educators and consultants from around the country in the leadup to school opening Aug. 29. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK — Classes began earlier this week for students in Regional School Unit 21, the beginning of a brand new school year.

Last week, the enthusiasm built for staff at a day-long symposium “It Starts with Us.”

It was an event designed to inform and to energize, and to remind educators and other staff that their work is vital.

There were morning talks and there were afternoon classes.

Author Lester Laminack spoke to teachers from the Kennebunk High School theater stage.

Laminack, the first to speak, said education has been used to advance political ideas. He said as each presidential candidate looks to be elected, there is talk about improving schools. He likened that it to being raised in a family where one feels they are never good enough — and noted that it has an impact on motivation.


RSU 21 School Board member Art LeBLanc, author and speaker Lester Laminack and Superintendent Terri Cooper listened to opening remarks at the “It Starts With Us,” professional development symposium Aug 22 in the lead-up to the first day of classes Aug. 29. Tammy Wells photo

“You have the opportunity at every turn to tell the stories of what is good,” said Laminack, a professor emeritus at Western Carolina University and author of books for teachers and children’s books. “Share what is good about being a teacher, because if you don’t, no one will.”

The symposium featured educators, consultants, authors, and others focusing on literacy instruction; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging; teamwork; social emotional learning; restorative school culture; safety; and more.

“It has been my privilege to work alongside an incredibly talented staff in RSU 21,” said Superintendent Terri Cooper. “Our commitment to our staff and students is clear: articulate our needs with fidelity, implement approaches to support staff, and inspire all members of the RSU 21 team to transform the lives of our students, and in turn, transform our communities. We owe it to our students to increase their opportunities for success in life.”

Laminack told teachers and other staff to take charge of their own story; and he spoke in general terms about the uptick in attempts to ban books.

“If we want kids to have a well-rounded understanding, they must have exposure to broad and robust libraries,” including those in classrooms, he said.

RSU 21 School Board member Dawn Therrien welcomed everyone.

Author and retired educator Lester Laminack was among those speaking at an RSU 21 symposium for school staff Aug. 22. Tammy Wells photo

“I’m really proud of what we’re doing here,” said Therrien. “And I am proud of all of you. We all play a key role in lifting up the students of this district.”

It was a full day of professional development for staff, a few short days before classes were to begin for the new school year.

“My hope is that each staff member walked away from the symposium knowing that it will take all of us, working together to meet the needs of each and every student in RSU 21,” said Cooper.

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