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Teacher of the Year brings positive energy to Minot Consolidated School

Katie Toothaker has been named Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year for 2018.

When you step inside Katie Toothaker’s kindergarten classroom at Minot Consolidated School, you can feel the love. “I’m a hugger!” says Toothaker. Indeed, Toothaker welcomes the opportunity to provide a physical hug, but she also provides the kind that are less tangible, and even more powerful. She “hugs” people with her kind words, contagious smile, and engaging conversation. She acknowledges others in a way that invites the conversation to continue.

In that same classroom, you will find children who are engaged in learning that is fun and challenging. Learning targets are posted around the room in kid-friendly language, and students are reminded regularly of what they will be able to do on their own when the learning experience is finished. Stop in on “Fancy Friday,” and you’ll find students dressed their best, participating in activities like reading with finger flashlights, or reading to a special stuffed animal from home. “Katie is everything a parent could dream a teacher to be,” says parent JoAnna Colbath. “Her students think of each other as family and have learned to appreciate and respect one another.”

Toothaker’s career at Minot Consolidated School began in 2013 as a sixth-grade teacher. Students in her class took part in reading and writing activities that were engaging and relevant. She provided voice and choice, as evidenced by the “choice” book found on every desk and personal writing topics that were as unique as the learners in the room.

“She used new styles of teaching as well as old to adjust the curriculum to fit the needs of each student,” says a former student. “She connected with me in many ways, especially through my interest in writing. She fit time with me into her busy schedule to analyze my writing and help me improve my abilities.”

In 2016, Toothaker accepted a request to switch grade levels and made the move to Kindergarten. “The move was so smooth that, if one did not know she had previously been a sixth grade teacher, they would think that she had been teaching Kindergarten her entire time at Minot,” said parent Julie Rioux. When asked about making such a change, Toothaker said, “I am a teacher. I’ll go where I am needed and be there for the kids.”

Toothaker’s commitment to Minot Consolidated and its students doesn’t stop at the classroom door. Even as a new teacher, she demonstrated leadership in developing grade-level expectations for curriculum and assessment. She is a member of various leadership teams, including the Every Day Math 4 Implementation Team and RSU 16’s Math Task Force that plans professional development for staff.

In the role of Team Leader for Minot’s Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports committee, her positive, solution-oriented attitude is a perfect fit. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, she led her team in establishing PBIS at Minot Consolidated School, including programming for students and professional development for staff.

She is also the school’s Yearbook Coordinator, working with a group of students to design and produce the annual yearbook. As a member of the Wellness Committee, she attends monthly meetings to help encourage her peers and students to make healthy choices. Her alter egos include Zero Hero, who reminds students to have zero sugary drinks, and, on National Brush Your Teeth Day, the Tooth Fairy, handing out new toothbrushes and toothpaste to every student.

Toothaker was recently honored for her achievements at the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta, where she was named 2018 Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year. The ceremony followed a lengthy and comprehensive application process, during which roughly 350 nominees were narrowed down to 16 deserving winners, one from each county. In this role, Toothaker will share her special qualities and talents as an educator with a broader audience.

As the school year winds to a close, Toothaker is also preparing for her next adventure as she moves up to fifth grade for the 2018-19 school year. Regardless of their age, her students should certainly be ready for an engaging experience. And a hug whenever they need it.

Christina Noonan is a parent from Minot.

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