May 30, 2024

School news


Robotics tournament

CASTINE – Maine Maritime Academy will host the Northern Maine FIRST LEGO League Tournament 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at the MMA Alexander Fieldhouse.

Sponsored by Maine Robotics, the high-tech competition is one of two Maine tournaments this year. All are welcome.

According to Thomas Bickford, president and director of Maine Robotics, volunteers are needed to assist in all areas of organization.

Maine Robotics, a nonprofit venture, has been bringing hands-on science and technology activities to Maine schools and children since 2000. The organization uses robotics competitions and summer camps to educate children third grade through high school. The multi-disciplinary topic touches on engineering, basic science, computers, programming, mathematics, problem solving and project design.

Maine Robotics sponsors local competitions in the FIRST LEGO League, an international program for children in a partnership between US FIRST and the LEGO Co. Every year, the league works with experts to create a challenge relating to a significant real-world issue.

This year’s theme, Climate Connections, challenges children age 9-14 to investigate the Earth’s climate and discover links among science, people, resources and communities.

This is the fourth year that MMA has played host to the event, the ninth year it has run in Maine. Organizers expect more than 20 teams with some 150 students total.

Those interested in volunteering may call Amy Gutow at 326-2283. Prospective volunteers are encouraged to learn more about the FIRST LEGO League and Climate Connections robotics competition at, by calling Thomas Bickford at 866-4340, or by e-mailing

Teacher finalists in math and science

Five Maine teachers have been named finalists for the 2008 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching – the highest recognition that a kindergarten through 12th-grade teacher of mathematics or science may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States.

Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions. The teachers are recognized for contributions to teaching and learning and ability to help students make progress in mathematics and science.

The Maine finalists are:

. Lauree Gott, Veazie Community School, grade six, science.

. Margaret Morton, South Bristol School, grades five and six, science.

. Pamela Thompson, Madison Elementary School, grades three and four, science.

. Kimberly Spencer, Yarmouth Elementary School, grades two and three, mathematics.

. Tricia Fletcher, Bowdoinham Community School, grade two, mathematics.

This year’s finalists are all kindergarten through grade six teachers. The National Science Foundation, which administers the Presidential Award, alternates the yearly award among teachers at elementary and middle and high schools.

“Maine is lucky to have these talented and devoted teachers committed to the science and mathematics education of our students,” said Anita Bernhardt, Maine coordinator of the Presidential Awards program.

Recipients of the award receive a citation signed by the president, a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a week-long series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, gifts from program sponsors, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Enacted by Congress in 1983, the program authorizes the president to make up to 108 awards each year. The National Science Foundation administers the Presidential Awards on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The five finalists will be honored in January in Augusta. The Maine award winner will be announced by the White House in the spring.

Principals, teachers, parents and others may nominate a teacher. Nominations for the 2009 Presidential Awards for teachers of grades seven through 12 are due by April 1; applications are due May 1.

Teachers are encouraged to nominate themselves. Forms and information can be found at


Maine Professor of the Year

ORONO – Ivan Fernandez, a University of Maine professor of soil science and cooperating professor of forest resources, has been selected the 2008 Maine Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

The Professor of the Year award is the only national program recognizing undergraduate professors for outstanding commitment to their students, educational institutions, profession and communities.

Fernandez earned master’s and doctoral degrees from UM. He has been on the UM faculty since 1983. Selected as UMaine’s 2007 Distinguished Maine Professor, Fernandez is a prolific scholar with more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, eight chapters and one book.

Federal agencies and private industry have provided more than $10 million in grant funding to support his research.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this recognition,” said Fernandez. “It is incredibly rewarding to work every day with our exceptional faculty, staff and students in the classroom, laboratory and field sites. A benefit of doing this work for many years is also to watch our students go on to play critical roles in society in Maine and elsewhere and to share the joy of their accomplishments with them.”

His research efforts focus on changing chemical and physical climate and how it affects forest ecosystems. An enthusiastic and well-respected teacher, Fernandez has taught many undergraduate and graduate courses and a large introductory soil science course required for students in several UM academic programs. He strives to include students in his research, broadening their perspectives and deepening their knowledge of science and discovery.

“If I were to list the top five faculty members at the University of Maine, Ivan would be among them in any category – undergraduate and graduate teaching, research or public service,” wrote professor Stephen Norton in recommending Fernandez for the award. “He is the most balanced and highest-performing faculty member I have known at [UMaine] in 39 years.”

Another faculty colleague, M. Susan Erich, noted Fernandez’ professional and public service record of supporting the soil science profession at the state and national level.

“His efforts have helped to build and maintain relationships between the University of Maine and the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, and various non-governmental organizations concerned with soil, water and natural resource issues,” Erich wrote. “His work with these agencies supports his efforts to help students establish careers in the natural resources area after graduation.”

Fernandez served in a key organizing role at UMaine’s recent conference, “Climate Change 21: Choices for the 21st Century.” He was a conference presenter and served as master of ceremonies for one of the conference’s two days.

Working with faculty and other partners, Fernandez is playing a central role in organizing a Maine Climate Change Assessment involving numerous scientists with a report soon to be delivered to Gov. John Baldacci.

Fernandez has served in several faculty and university community leadership roles including service on the UM Faculty Senate, a stint as faculty representative to the University of Maine System board of trustees and a decade as department chairman along with membership on university, college and departmental committees.

“Professor Fernandez represents the best characteristics of the University of Maine,” said Todd Saucier, president and executive director of the University of Maine Alumni Association, who nominated Fernandez for the award. “He is dedicated to his students, the state and his alma mater. His work exemplifies the university’s ideals and its land-grant mission because it has a direct impact on Maine citizens and our precious way of life.”

Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow Program

ORONO – State Rep. Joshua Tardy of Newport will visit the University of Maine on Friday, Dec. 5, as part of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center Distinguished Maine Policy Fellow Program. The House Republican leader will spend the day at UM meeting with students, faculty members and staff.

The Distinguished Maine Policy Fellows program, which began in 2006, brings Maine elected officials and senior policymakers to UMaine for intensive one-day programs through which they learn more about UM, the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and the work of the university’s faculty members and students.

It also is intended to provide opportunities for UMaine students to have access to high-level public officials through whom they can learn more about government and the development of public policy.

Tardy, an attorney beginning his fourth term in the Maine House, represents District 25, which includes Corinna, part of Corinth, Exeter, Newport and Plymouth.

He will speak with UMaine students in a public management class, participate in a panel discussion about research, visit research facilities and meet with other groups during his time in Orono.

Russian political affairs

ORONO – Thomas Remington, a Harvard University visiting research scholar and Emory University political science professor, will visit the University of Maine for a Monday, Dec. 8, lecture and panel discussion on contemporary Russian political affairs.

The event is scheduled for 3-4:30 p.m. in 100 Donald P. Corbett Business Building.

“Thomas Remington is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on Russian political affairs in the English-speaking world,” said Professor James Warhola of the UM Department of Political Science.

Remington, who has spoken twice at UMaine before, has published numerous works on post-Soviet Russian political affairs. He travels to Russia and other former Soviet republics on a regular basis to conduct research.

The Dec. 8 program will begin with a public lecture by Remington, who will focus on prospective U.S.-Russian relations under the Obama administration. A panel discussion with Remington and UM adjunct political science professors Seth Singleton and Paul Holman will be held afterward.

This event is made possible by a grant from the University of Maine Distinguished Lecture Series & Cultural Affairs Committee.

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