For the second consecutive year, a teacher from the Skowhegan Area Middle School has been named the county Teacher of the Year.

Debora Tanner, a mathematics teacher of seventh and eighth grades at the school, was honored Thursday in a State House ceremony.

Brenda LaVerdiere, a fourth-grade teacher at Academy Hill School in Wilton, won the award for Franklin County.

The Kennebec County Teacher of the Year is Gretchen Nickerson, who teaches at Helen Thompson School in West Gardiner. Kathryn Foran of Smith Elementary School in Winterport won for Waldo County.

In winning the Somerset County honor, Tanner follows a colleague at Skowhegan Area Middle School, Jen Dorman, who was named 2014 teacher of the year. Dorman went on to be named Maine Teacher of the Year. She is a special education teacher at Skowhegan Middle School.

“It means a lot to me. I honestly am humbled and honored with all the wonderful teachers in Somerset County, especially at my school,” she said. “This school is amazing. It’s a huge team, and we all work together and we made history. This is the first time that the Somerset Teacher of the Year has been from the same school two years in a row.”

Skowhegan Area Middle School principal Zachary Longyear said Tanner’s commitment to community service extends beyond the school building and the school day.

“If there is a need to be met, she is always right there,” he said. “Whether it be academic, whether it be support for a student, support for a family, support for a colleague, she’s the whole picture when it comes to an educator.”

Longyear, who has been in the position for two years, said his predecessor, Bruce Mochamer, fostered a structure that encouraged teamwork.

“It is a true team. When someone receives this honor, they receive it for the building,” he said.

The state teacher of the year will be chosen from among winners of the award in the state’s 16 counties.

Among other central Maine counties, the teacher of the year in Lincoln County was Jennifer Wright Gregg, of Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta. Fallyn Adams, of Union Elementary School, took the honor for Knox County.

The county winners of the award were announced at the State House by first lady Ann LePage and acting Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin.

“What makes the 16 County Teachers of the Year and so many others across our state great is that they believe in every single child they teach,” Desjardin said. “Instead of making excuses, they inspire students and instill them with the skills and confidence they need to realize their incredible potential, no matter their challenges.”

Students at Skowhegan Middle School were excited to hear that one of their teachers had been honored.

I have a very close relationship with the students I work with,” Tanner said. “When they entered my classroom, it was all about showing how much I care about them. That’s the most important thing before I can teach them anything.”

Married to the Rev. Mark Tanner, of Skowhegan Federated Church, Tanner said the couple often work together on community projects such as preparing food baskets and other community-oriented activities.

Tanner is the mathematics department head, is a team leader and advises the student council. Her classes over 28 years at Skowhegan have included all five of her children, one of whom followed her mother’s career and teaches social studies at Lawrence High School in Fairfield.

“She’s an amazing teacher,” Tanner said. “I just told her, ‘Someday you will win this award.’”

The 16 county teachers of the year now will enter another selection process that includes portfolio reviews, school visits and an interview with a panel to decide the 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year. That announcement traditionally is made at a surprise school assembly in the winning teacher’s district.


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