FAIRFIELD — Troy Frost walks through the halls of his school, scissors in hand, cutting out “golden tickets” for his students.

The tickets are a reward for good behavior that can be used for things such as getting out of detention or redeemed for gift cards. The idea was conceived by Frost and a colleague at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, where Frost is a co-director and student advisor.

Frost has worked at the charter school since it opened last year and over his career has spent the last 25 years at the Good Will-Hinckley campus, where he has worked as a teacher, coach and in residential cottages for young people.

He was recently one of five educators in the state to receive the Commissioner’s Recognition Award from the Department of Education, which recognizes individuals or programs that have contributed to meeting the needs of at-risk children.

Frost said his philosophy on education is one that is always changing.

“I think more students now require different ways to learn. They can’t sit in seats for a long period of time and they like project-based learning,” he said.

The curriculum at the MeANS school is based on experiential learning with a focus on the natural sciences and being outdoors, said Frost, who is also the first charter school educator to receive the award. He said it is rooted in the philosophy of George Walter Hinckley, who founded a home for young people on the campus in 1889.

Good Will-Hinckley, founded in 1889, was a residential school that closed in 2009 because of financial problems. It opened the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in September 2011.

Frost said he has continued to rely on the same emphasis on hands-on learning as an educator, since he first came to the campus in 1986.

“We try to get students to be self-directed,” he said. “I like to ask students how can you learn this?”

For example, he said that if a student has an interest in snowmobiling, they might be encouraged to develop a map of snowmobile trails using linear equations to master a math lesson.

Frost said many of his students are successful under this approach, but that as a teacher it can take time to step back and let students explore material on their own.

His patience is one reason Frost was chosen for the award, said Department of Education spokeswoman Samantha Warren.

“Even in the face of the most trying students, he supports them by engaging their families, working with other faculty and building relationships,” she said.

Brenda Poulin, a humanities teacher at the school who also received the award last year when MeANS was a magnet school, said Frost is an important part of a community that serves at-risk teens. That includes students who could drop out of school for either academic or personal reasons, she said.

“Troy knows every kid by name and is very genuine, whether in his discipline approach or just talking with them,” she said. “He might be helping them map out their future or just talking about sports.”

“He’s very determined to help you,” said Zach Brady, 17, a student at the school who meets daily with Frost, his academic advisor. He said his teacher has helped him develop a learning plan and set goals.

The school currently has 43 students and 24 of them live on the campus, according to school spokeswoman Rebecca Pollard.

Frost, who went to high school at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield and is a 1986 graduate of the University of Maine, said his own educational past was positive and has inspired him to take the same approach to his teaching.

“I enjoy seeing students grow, improve and succeed, and I’m really open to change,” said Frost, who recently composed a poem called “It Is Time,” which imagines the school day through the eyes of his students.

“We are all different in color, rank and file. Let’s find a way to meet all learning styles,” it says.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
[email protected]

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