Student teacher Jon Bolduc works with eighth grader Katie Gerard during Tuesday’s English language arts class at Oxford Hills Middle School in Oxford. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

OXFORD — As an educational technician for Oxford Hills Middle School, Jon Bolduc provides individualized support for students and teachers in the classroom each day. Outside of school hours, he’s working toward becoming a teacher.

It isn’t easy returning to school at 29. Bolduc has a wife, a life and lingering student loans from his undergraduate degree to manage. But a new pilot program led by faculty at the University of Southern Maine is making it a little easier for some like Bolduc to get their teaching certification.

The new Maine Teacher Residency program provides financial and educational support for student teachers across the state, while also helping fill critical staffing shortages in Maine schools. These participants work full-time as educational technicians, long-term substitutes or emergency/conditionally certified teachers within the program, while taking classes toward their degree.

Student teachers in the residency program are paid employees of the school district, who additionally receive a $3,500 tuition reimbursement or stipend per year under the program.

“I’ve been through a lot of those cycles of like, refiguring out what I want to do,” Bolduc said. “And I am really confident that teaching is the thing that I want to do . . . I was a little bit skeptical, but actually having a job where I work with middle schoolers, and I get to actively see some of them transform and learn . . . this is really rewarding.”

In its first year, the federally funded program has 40 participants across more than 20 school districts, including Lewiston schools, Turner-based Maine School Administrative District 52 and Rumford-based Regional School Unit 10. Next year, the program will add 70 more slots.


Student teacher Jon Bolduc works with students during Tuesday’s English language arts class at Oxford Hills Middle School in Oxford. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Each participant is matched with a mentor, who also receives a stipend for their efforts.

“It’s been a completely different school year for me, having a student teacher in the room,” Dylan LeConte, Bolduc’s mentor, said. “That’s the best — like, the best — difference because I think having a guaranteed extra hand of somebody who really wants to get their hands dirty . . . I couldn’t ask for more. It’s really the most support I’ve ever had in a classroom.”

LeConte graduated from the same masters program that Bolduc is enrolled in. Just over six years ago, LeConte recalls student teaching for a full year as part of the certification program without any financial assistance.

That student teachers in the new residency program can receive a tuition reimbursement or stipend on top of their salary from the school is a major benefit, he said. The one-on-one mentorship program also allows student teachers to develop critical skills that emergency certification teachers with little experience may lack, like behavioral management.

According to a prepared statement from USM, the program’s goal is to “address Maine’s teacher shortage in the short term by filling needed positions with student teachers and supporting not-yet-certified teachers. It hopes to address the shortage in the long term by providing aspiring teachers with the support and training they need to be successful educators.”

Bolduc said LeConte has helped him become a better teacher by learning from his experience. Most days, LeConte teaches an English lesson in block two, then swaps with Bolduc in block four to let him give the same lesson a go.


“Having that support system there is huge,” he said. “If I were just by myself and trying to figure out how to teach and just winging it, I probably would burn out after two or three years.”

Most participants in the residency program are education students at University of Maine-affiliated schools, however the program is open to all undergraduate and graduate education students in Maine.

When Bolduc was considering going back to school for teaching, he was leery of taking on more debt. In addition to his full-time job at the middle school, he also works shifts as a emergency dispatcher to make ends meet. Even so, he ultimately chose to pursue a graduate degree in teaching.

“I felt like I would be in a position where taking on that burden would be worth it, you know?” he said. “But knowing that some of that is going to be alleviated is huge.”

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