I wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten, but I wouldn’t have become Maine’s Teacher of the Year without my education from the University of Maine at Farmington.

I am proud to be one of only two special educators ever selected for Maine’s top teaching honor. But I am even prouder of the challenges my students with special education needs overcome every day. With the right supports, it is amazing what our young people can achieve.

But too many Maine kids are not getting the early childhood and special education services they need to realize their full potential because of severe teacher shortages in these disciplines.

That’s why I support Question 4, the $49 million bond that will make critical investments across the University of Maine System, including at UMF’s Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center.

Beyond providing local families affordable, nationally accredited childcare, Sweatt-Winter gives UMF students majoring in early childhood and early childhood special education real-world learning and observation opportunities. It’s also where professionals already working with young children can come back to learn emerging best practices as part of their required continuing education.

UMF graduates the most teachers prepared to work in early childcare settings and offers the only special education undergraduate teacher preparation program in Maine. Voting yes on Question 4 will help rebuild and expand Sweat-Winter, allowing UMF to grow its enrollment in these in-demand majors, reduce the state’s shortage of early childhood special educators and provide more qualified educators to support Maine’s growing public pre-kindergarten programs. As importantly, it will also increase access to care for Franklin County families.

On Nov. 6, I urge you to please join me in supporting our kids and Maine teachers by voting yes on Question 4.

Jennifer Dorman

Farmington

(The writer is the 2015 Maine Teacher of the Year.)

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