East End Community School third grade teacher Joshua Chard is greeted by his students after the ceremony where he received the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year award on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Joshua Chard can struggle to get out of bed in the morning like a lot of people do, he said, groaning as his alarm tells him it’s time to get moving. But the minute the educator steps into his classroom at Portland’s East End Community School, he’s excited and energized and can’t wait to say ‘hi’ to each student.

There’s a stereotype, Chard said, that teachers who have been on the job for decades are burnt out and unmotivated. But that stereotype is false and, after 31 years in the classroom, he proves it, he said.

“I love that I have a room full of students that I get to lift up and celebrate,” he said. “My life is full of supporting kids.”

Chard, who teaches second and third graders, was announced as Maine’s Teacher of the Year during a lively school assembly Wednesday morning.

“Joshua Chard embodies the qualities that make Maine teachers amazing, and we’re thrilled to honor him as the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year,” Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin said to an enthusiastic crowd of students and educators. “Today we celebrate Joshua’s passion for teaching, his love of his students and public education, and his ability to make each and every person feel welcome and like they belong.”

Chard was one of over 550 teachers nominated for the Maine Department of Education and nonprofit Educate Maine’s annual award.


Along with teaching second and third graders, Chard, 53, is the drama director at Deering High School.

Chard found out a few weeks ago that he was this year’s pick for Maine Teacher of the Year. But as he stood in East End Community School’s gymnasium Wednesday in front of rows of students struggling to sit still on the floor and keep their excitement at bay, he looked like he was finding out for the first time that he was receiving the honor.

Joshua Chard, a teacher at East End Community School, has been named 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. Courtesy Portland Public Schools

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent my peers at the local, state and national levels, to shout from the rooftops that we are doing good work, that we are proud to be Maine educators, and that we are honored to do our small part to shape Maine’s future,” he said.

As a young student, school was hard for him, Chard told the crowd of students and fellow educators. “There were days that it seemed like everyone understood what was happening except for me,” he said.

But his fifth grade teacher changed everything. She taught him that he was intelligent, deserved love just for being him and that he could do what he set his mind to.

Today he teaches his students some of those same lessons.


His third grade students said he’s kind and makes them feel confident, supported and welcomed, all while challenging them


“He’s an awesome teacher,” said Serenity Mokolo, 8. “When things are hard he tells us we will figure them out together. He cares about us.”

Joshua Chard works with students in his East End Community School classroom this fall. Courtesy Maine Department of Education

Isla Molitor-Stern, 7, said there are so many things she likes about Chard that picking just a few was hard, but eventually she settled on the way he teaches them difficult topics, like math.

“He makes what seems hard, and what people don’t really like, actually fun,” she said.

Ellie Mann, 8, said Chard pushes them to challenge themselves.


“He lets us work in groups a lot more than other teachers, which is sometimes frustrating because not everyone understands everything. But it’s better because you learn how to share your thinking with other people,” she said.

Maine has been recognizing teachers of the year for 70 years. The first Maine teacher of the year was chosen in 1954, according to the information on the Maine DOE’s website. Each year hundreds of teachers are nominated, 16 are chosen as county teachers of the year and one of those 16 is chosen as the state teacher of the year.

East End Community School third grade teacher Joshua Chard blows a kiss to his students as he accepts the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year award in a ceremony at the school on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

As the 2024 Maine teacher of the year, Chard is to serve as an advocate for teachers, students and education. He also will represent Maine in the National Teacher of the Year program and participate in a yearlong professional development series with the national program.

In recent years, the field of education has faced significant turmoil – the COVID-19 pandemic, school board battles over how to teach students about subjects such as race, gender identity and sexuality, and a major teacher and school staffing shortage.

The goal of the Maine teacher of the year program is to showcase the positive work the state’s educators do, especially those who far surpass expectations.

The program raises the profile of teachers and helps ensure that all Maine students have high-quality teachers, said Jason Judd, the executive director of Educate Maine, the nonprofit that runs the teacher of the year program alongside the Maine DOE.

“We deeply appreciate the critical role teachers play in the lives of Maine learners and are grateful for the opportunities we have to recognize and honor their incredible work,” Judd said.

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