Aaron Townsend is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

In this last month of school before regular classes end in June, it’s a good time to thank all our Portland Public Schools staff for their hard work throughout this year. We see them and we appreciate them – not just in May but all year long.

May 8-12 was National Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to express our gratitude to our stellar PPS teachers for their service and dedication in support of students and families.

We also want to give a special shoutout to teacher Joshua Chard at East End Community School who, on May 11, was named 2023 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. That puts him in the running to be the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year.

We’re proud to say that many of our teachers have been recognized by the Maine Teacher of the Year program within the past decade. Casco Bay High School teacher Matt Bernstein, the 2023 recipient, was the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. Cindy Soule, a literacy coach at Talbot Community School, was 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year and 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year; Brooke Teller, the district’s STEM coordinator, received the award for Cumberland County in 2017; and Karen MacDonald, a King Middle School teacher, now retired, was the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Congratulations to all these teachers. They are exemplary of the high-quality educators we are so fortunate to have in our district.

Melea Nalli is the interim co-superintendent of Portland Public Schools and can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

May 5 was School Lunch Hero Day. Students can’t learn when they’re hungry, and we are so grateful to all our dedicated food service staff for ensuring our students have tasty, nutritious meals to help power their learning. Our food service people provide an essential contribution in support of students’ learning and social-emotional health.


Last week was National Nurses Week, and National School Nurse Day was May 10. Our school nurses provide a wide variety of care for our students every day. They also educate students about health and serve as a trusted support for students. This year’s National Nurses Week theme is “You Make a Difference” and that is very true of our PPS school nurses. We are extremely grateful to them for their positive impact on the lives of our students and families.

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which raises awareness about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists work to improve communication. May 18 is National Speech Language Pathologist Day. Our deep gratitude goes out to those employed in PPS for their essential work with our students with speech and language challenges to help them succeed.

May also is National Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of and reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Portland Public Schools has been making a concerted effort to support the social-emotional health of not only our students, but also our staff in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. We want to recognize our social workers and counselors who provide support to our students and build the capacity of all of us to be responsive to our students’ growing mental health needs.

While there may not be a special day to recognize them this month, we also want to let all our other staff members know how much we appreciate them. Although their jobs vary, each staff member plays a key role in assisting Portland Public Schools in realizing its mission of preparing and empowering our students for college and career. Thank you for all that you do.

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