SKOWHEGAN — A Maine School Administrative District 54 instructor at the Somerset Career and Technical Center was awarded the 2020 Somerset County Teacher of the Year award.

At Thursday’s board of directors meeting, held in the gymnasium at Skowhegan Area Middle School, technical center Director David Dorr announced that Jen France, a longtime instructor in the district, was named the 2020 Teacher of the Year for Somerset County.

France is the childhood education teacher at the technical center, located at North Elementary School. She received her bachelor’s in early childhood education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Maine at Farmington. She is a faculty member at the Maine Education Association, an adjunct instructor at Kennebec Valley Community College and a National Board Certified Teacher.

Superintendent Jon Moody said that France has worked in the district since 2011 and has 21 years of teaching experience.

Jen France, left, receives the 2020 Somerset County Teacher of the Year Award during Thursday evening’s Maine School Administrative District 54 board of directors meeting. At right is David Dorr, director of Somerset Career and Technical Center. Taylor Abbott/Morning Sentinel

“I am always impressed going into her classrooms,” Dorr said. “She’s a quiet leader but always volunteering. She is a great teacher, mentor, very dynamic, energetic, compassionate, and it’s great to have her as part of the team.”

Moody said that the process of being awarded teacher of the year for the county is a rigorous one. Anyone can be nominated, but the nominee must accept. From there, the process involves a writing and reflection process and presentations.

“Your best teachers go above and beyond for their students,” Moody said. “She does a ton outside of her classroom; it influences not only our kids but the whole county.”

Additionally, Moody said, having an instructor from a technical center is not a common occurrence.

“She’s a really dynamic and positive human being,” Moody said. “She is the kind of person that kids gravitate to and is a great example for people that want to be teachers.”

In other business, Moody provided updates on students being in-person at facilities. Though the county designation recently shifted to “yellow” under the state’s reopening of schools plan, he said that the only real change within the district was the cancellation of extracurricular activities.

“The biggest impact was to clubs and activities that have been meeting in-person,” Moody said. “For the kiddos, it certainly meant the end of a season that they did not see coming. We feel for those individuals.”

The district has been operating under a hybrid model since September. Under this plan, students in prekindergarten through sixth grade are learning in-person five days a week while grades seven through 12 are learning under a hybrid model divided by last names.

As for hosting board meetings, Moody said that they will continue to be held in-person as long as students are meeting in-person.

“My philosophy is that if kids are in school, we will be in-person,” Moody said.

To date, the district has had three positive cases of COVID-19 and one probable positive case. The positives have been a student at Skowhegan Area High School, a teacher at Mill Stream Elementary School and a staff person within the district. The probable positive case was a student at Canaan Elementary School.

Schools have been kept open, Moody said, because each of the COVID-19 cases that the district has seen has reportedly been a result of contact with individuals outside of the school.

“We were told by Maine (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) that everything that we’re doing is clearly working,” Moody said. “It is frustrating to quarantine students and go through this process. And it definitely has an impact on families, but (we are) keeping school open because there has been no transmission in our school. What was said to me is that school is one of the safest places if the schools follow the rules, and I think our staff and others have done an awesome job with that.”

MSAD 54 serves the communities of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.


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