When a review panel visited Gerald E. Talbot Community School earlier this year, they heard a lot of feedback about what makes fourth-grade teacher Cindy Soule special.

She knows how to get colleagues involved to make transformational change. She reinvigorated a fellow educator’s career when that person wanted to give up. She is the hardest worker. And she’s known for dancing on tables and chairs to boost the mood of her students.

Because of those things, the Maine Department of Education and nonprofit Educate Maine chose Soule as the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year. The award was announced in a ceremony Thursday morning outside Talbot school.

Cindy Soule, a fourth-grade teacher at Gerald E. Talbot Community School, shows her appreciation shortly after being named Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year during an outdoor ceremony Thursday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“I’m really overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, but what I feel most is a deep sense of pride – pride in our school, pride in the learning community we have created together and pride in the fact that the reason I was selected as Maine Teacher of the Year stems from the work we have collectively accomplished across Portland schools together,” said Soule, 48.

Soule, the 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, was chosen from over 300 nominees around the state and will now be in the running for National Teacher of the Year. The other finalists for Maine Teacher of the Year were Alison Babb-Brott, a second-grade teacher at St. George School in St. George, and Heather Webster, an English teacher at Medomak Valley High School.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana, Educate Maine Executive Director Jason Judd and others, including Soule’s parents, her husband and her three children, were among those who gathered at Talbot on Thursday to recognize her.

“As a teacher Cindy inspires curiosity and citizenship in her students, teaching about science and the natural world and encouraging students to construct scientific understanding through observation, questioning and collaborative thinking,” Botana said. “She also empowers students to see themselves as meaningful contributors to their community.”

Cindy Soule’s fourth-grade students at Gerald E. Talbot Community School react to the news that she was named Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year during an outdoor ceremony Thursday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Soule, who lives in Cumberland, has taught at Talbot for 20 years. She previously worked for one year as a teacher in the Auburn School Department and is a graduate of the University of Maine Orono and the University of Southern Maine.

Soule was nominated by Brooke Teller, Portland Public Schools’ STEM coordinator, who was the 2017 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. After she was named Cumberland County Teacher of the Year, Soule said she wanted to bring more of a platform to the Talbot and Portland Public Schools communities and saw the Maine Teacher of the Year recognition as an opportunity to do that.

In remarks Thursday, she recognized Gerald Talbot, the first African American lawmaker elected to the Maine Legislature, for whom the school was renamed earlier this year, and the students and families at Talbot.

“They continue to inspire me each and every day with their courage, determination and love of learning,” Soule said. “Even on days that are challenging, when things just don’t seem to be going my way, it is the students who lift my spirits and bring joy to my day. Students at Talbot, hear me when I say, ‘You are spectacular. I love my job because of you.’ “


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