Spanish teacher Suzie Kovats says she tries each day to comment on something that is unique to a Katahdin High School student, whether it’s their favorite music or a nicely decorated backpack.
“I walk into school with a smile and a hello for every student whether they’re in my class or not,” said Kovats, a high-powered executive from Boston who moved to Maine five years ago to launch her second career as a teacher.
“I really do care that students come to a safe environment and feel comfortable saying what they need to,” the Stacyville teacher said.
Children have lots of questions and need guidance from adults, said Joel Albee, a school bus driver and custodian at the Elm Street School in East Machias for 17 years.
His young passengers like to talk about themselves and what their day was like.
“I always listen to them and try to give them good advice,” Albee said. He was elected Scout Master of the Year in 2005 for Washington County and has won state and regional school bus driving rodeos.
Albee encourages children to do their homework, reminds them that school is important and advises them “not to take things personally and let others push your buttons.”
Christine DeGozzaldi, an educational technician at Deer Isle Stonington Elementary School, has helped countless pupils with disabilities reach their potential.
“It’s being patient – explaining the material in a way they understand. It’s just taking everything a little slower,” DeGozzaldi said. She said she has enjoyed watching youngsters gain confidence and independence and become successful students. During her 18 years at the school, she has seen many of them go on to college.
Besides consistency, children need “respect like everybody else,” she said.
Before becoming principal at Katahdin Middle/High School in Stacyville nine years ago, Rae Bates taught English there for 25 years and often would ask students to write about how a conflict in a book related to a conflict in their lives.
“Teaching English gives people a tremendous inside track on kids,” said Bates who, as principal, now enjoys “being able to bring new ideas to the staff and make changes at the school.”
She said students “need someone who listens to them and respects them and lets them know that every day is a brand new day where we don’t hold grudges and move forward.”