SKOWHEGAN — “There’s another bright light in SkowVegas tonight.”

Lisa Duguay, of Bangor Savings Bank, expressed that sentiment Thursday morning to packed gymnasium, referring to one of several nicknames for the town of Skowhegan.

The gathering was a special surprise assembly announcing that Tammy Ranger, a reading intervention teacher at Skowhegan Area Middle School, is the 2017 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Ranger, 53, whose mother, mother-in law, husband and three adult children were all present Thursday for the award presentation, told her students seated on the floor and in the bleachers of the school gymnasium that they are the reason she comes to work every day.

“We teach because we love our students and because we love learning,” Ranger said, thanking her colleagues and students for making the award possible. “In my 16 years working as an educator, I’ve met many outstanding teachers in Maine. I feel like I know teachers; we have common experiences. I know that you love your students and you want the best for your students, and I know the joy that your feel when you see the ‘light bulb moments’ come on when you understand that they got the lesson that you taught.”

Ranger is the second such statewide “bright light” to come out of Skowhegan Area Middle School — Jennifer Dorman, an English and language arts instructor in special education at the school, was the 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year. Ranger also is the third County Teacher of the Year from the school, joining Dorman and Debora Tanner, a mathematics teacher, in that honor.

The announcement, made in the middle school gymnasium, came after the student body filed in and then sat quietly until Ranger entered through a side door to a wild round of applause. The applause continued in a loud standing ovation as Ranger hugged fellow teachers and members of her family.

Ranger began her teaching career in 1999 as a sixth-grade reading and social studies teacher at Margaret Chase Smith Elementary School in Skowhegan. She is a yoga instructor for the elderly and for employees at New Balance Athletic Shoe Co. and sits on the board of Waterville Public Library. She also is a volunteer at the Evening Soup and Sandwich program in Waterville.

Ranger is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maine, teaching a methods course in England language arts. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education with a concentration in literacy from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master’s degree in kindergarten-through-grade 12 literacy from the University of Maine.

In welcoming the assembly audience and introducing Ranger to the students, Skowhegan Area Middle School Principal Zachary Longyear said the event was “tremendously exciting.”

“Her experience with you, our students, will shape the face of education in Maine and beyond,” Longyear told the assembly. “Mrs. Ranger validates what the state of Maine and the title Teacher of the Year stands for. She is the perfect example of an ambassador for this program — a mother, a mentor, a friend and an example that shines through your students, showing them that they, too, can be exceptional.”

Talya Edlund, the 2016 Teacher of the Year, who teaches at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth and whose reign ends Dec. 31, said in her remarks congratulating Ranger that “you are the teacher I want to learn from.”

She said the excitement of the award ceremony was like getting ready to go to a birthday part for a good friend.

“Today is like the biggest party ever,” Edlund said. “We are celebrating a truly exceptional, wholehearted and fabulous individual, who, like you all probably do, I feel so lucky to know.”

A plaque noting the Maine Teacher of the Year Award was presented to Ranger by Martha Harris and Peter Geiger, of the state Board of Education.

Ranger, who was also the 2016 Somerset County Teacher of the Year, was among three state finalists for Maine’s top teaching award.

Hundreds of students and staff members turned out for the assembly, as did Brent Colbry, superintendent of School Administrative District 54; Maine Department of Education Deputy Commissioner William Beardsley; and Ed Cervone, executive director of the nonprofit group Educate Maine, which administers the Teacher of the Year program.

Cervone told the assembly that Thursday’s award assembly was all about positivity.

“And guys — your teacher just won a great honor, but she’s got a lot of work ahead of her, too,” Cervone said. “But one of the cool things among many is that she gets to go to Washington, D.C., to represent all of you for the nation; and she gets to meet the president of the United States.”

Also in attendance Thursday were representatives from program sponsors Bangor Savings Bank, the Dead River Co., Geiger Bros. and Hannaford supermarkets.

Ranger was recognized in a ceremony at the State House May 13 as one of 15 County Teachers of the Year honored by the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine.

The process of selecting the 2017 Maine Teacher of the Year includes personal interviews with the finalists and school site visits where they work. Review panels during the selection process consist of past Teachers of the Year, school administrators, department staff members, and members of professional education organizations and the business community.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow