Archive for December, 2010

Passages Program Welcomes New Teacher

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Wayfinder Schools is pleased to announce the hiring of new teacher Heather King, of Windsor. King joined the school’s staff this month, as a teacher in The Passages Program for teen parents.

King, who hails from New Hampshire, has spent the last eleven years living in Pennsylvania, and says she is thrilled to now call Maine her home. “I am beyond excited to be a resident of such a diverse and picturesque state,” she said.

Before moving to PA, King worked as a kindergarten teacher and Head Start home visitor, while more recently, she has taught high school and college English.

King said, “I am truly thrilled to teach at Wayfinder Schools because of the positive influence it has on the community. This position fosters a climate in which I can help students advance academically but also encourage them to be confident, capable human beings who can give back to their communities.”

Wayfinder Schools’s Passages Program serves teen parents in Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Washington Counties. Students are matched with a Passages Teacher who provides individualized instruction in the student’s own home, thereby eliminating the need for young parents to secure daily transportation and child care in order to attend school.

Founded in 1994, the Passages Program has helped over 120 young parents realize their goal of graduating with a high school diploma. Passages students receive instruction in 24 core areas in academic, parenting and life skills- including math, science, social studies, English Language Arts, child development, budgeting, nutrition and more.

Before graduating, each student must complete a final “Passage”, a project that addresses a personal challenge or goal for the student. Recent Passages projects have included everything from raising funds for The Maine Children’s Cancer Program to learning to play guitar, writing a novella, developing a cookbook for children with special developmental and dietary needs, and even working with town officials to secure sidewalks for a downtown area with heavy stroller traffic.

Last year, Passages student Amanda Thornton spoke at the state-wide drop-out prevention conference and the Maine Family Literacy conference, and was selected as the keynote speaker for The Maine Family Literacy Initiative’s award ceremony in June. There, she spoke alongside former First Lady Barbara Bush and Maine’s First Lady Karen Baldacci.

One recent Passages Program graduate said, “If you had asked me four years if I would ever graduate with my high school diploma, I would probably have told you no. Thanks to The Passages Program, I can say yes.”

King replaces longtime Passages Teacher Janet Larkin, who recently retired from teaching to pursue her writing career. King joins fellow Passages Teacher Andrea Itkin and Passages Program Director Martha Kempe in serving students throughout the mid-coast area.

Kempe said, “We are very pleased to have Heather join Passages. Her combination of experiences in teaching and counseling fit so well with the needs of the position. Her energy and commitment to our students’ growth as parents and learners was evident from her first day with us. We are so happy to have her join Wayfinder Schools staff.”

International Thanksgiving celebration at Wayfinder Schools

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

November was a busy month at Wayfinder Schools, culminating in a special International Thanksgiving celebration, in which students, staff, volunteers and friends of the school gathered to celebrate together, and enjoy food from around the world.

Held on the evening before students headed home for Thanksgiving holiday break, International Thanksgiving was not only a lot of delicious fun; it was also a great learning experience.

Weeks before the food was served, each student selected a different country to study. This year, students chose Chad, Turkey, The Philippines, India, The United States, Japan, France, and Cuba.

In preparation for the big night, each student researched the food and traditions of their selected country, including how much money a typical family from each country spends on weekly groceries.

What the students discovered was surprising, and sometimes heart wrenching, particularly in the case of the families they studied from Chad and the Philippines.

In addition to typing up and presenting reports on their individual countries, each student prepared a meal representative of that country.

This year’s meals included a dried goat’s meat stew from Chad, a sweet and spicy Japanese soup, a rich chocolate torte from France, a delightful Cuban banana dessert, feta-filled puff pastry from Turkey, a spicy Indian rice dish, southern fried chicken from the United States, and a spicy chicken dish from the Philippines.

Culinary Instructor Cathy Ames-Cruz rounded out the meal with traditional New England Thanksgiving fare, including mashed and sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing and all the fixin’s.

Before serving the food, each student made an oral presentation about their selected country, what they learned, why they chose to cook what they did, and what they are thankful for in their own lives after doing their research.

16 year old Ayla Johnson chose to study a refugee family from Chad. After learning about the daily struggles of this family, including how little they had to eat, how much money they had to spend, and the lengths they had to go to secure food for their family, she expressed thanks to her own family, and the food they have to eat. “Never again,” she said, “will I open the refrigerator and complain, “There’s nothing good to eat in here!”

Student Eimi DeWitt, who hails from Japan, talked of typical Japanese family life and food. Eimi expressed thanks for the education she has received in both Japan and the US, as well as the relative gender equality she has experienced in both countries. “Women in many Asian countries don’t have these same opportunities,” she said.

Before the presentations and the food, student Dawn Dudley spoke of her Mic Mac heritage, and said she would be filling her plate with small samplings of each food item, as an offering to her ancestors.

Residential Program Director Joseph Hufnagel then asked everyone around the table to take a moment to think about Native Americans and indigenous people from around the world, and to honor the best parts of the Thanksgiving tradition- friends, family and community.

All of those things were in abundance during International Thanksgiving, and we’re looking forward to celebrating this new tradition for many years to come.

Happy Holidays!

Diamonds, pearls and cotton tees create magic at Wayfinder Schools Auction

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

This year marked the 30th anniversary of Wayfinder Schools’s fundraising auction, celebrated in style at The Rockport Opera House on November 12.

The Opera House was transformed with glittering lights, white table cloths, holiday greens and over 200 fabulous auction items.

Tables were strewn with pearls, there were fabulous hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and lucky bidders walked away with everything from a stunning diamond necklace to Boston Red Sox tickets.

Brevetto Kitchen and Wine Bar provided elegant hors d’oeuvres, and auctioneer Bruce Gamage delighted the crowd with his usual good humor and expert auctioneering.

One of the highlights of the night, however, turned out to be sixteen basic cotton tee-shirts.

Of course, these weren’t any old cotton tees, but hand designed original pieces of art, created by students themselves.

At the urging of board member and auction chairperson Mary Jane Schotte, and with the assistance of art teacher Tom Butler, the students set about creating their own tee-shirt designs, which were reproduced onto cotton shirts, and sold for one hundred dollars apiece during the live auction.

In fact, bidding was so competitive that the last tee sold for $150, raising a total of $1,650 for student tuition assistance.

Tee shirt themes ranged from Passamaquoddy symbols to lobster designs and peace motifs, and each shirt was accompanied by a short narrative from the students.

When students learned that their shirts had brought in over $1,600 for the school, they were thrilled.

“This project was awesome,” student Ayla Johnson said, “because we were able to embrace our creativity, utilize individual expression, and give back to the school at the same time.”

The success of this year’s auction was made possible through the generous support of hundreds of local businesses and volunteers, and Wayfinder Schools would like to thank all of the many auction donors and sponsors, all food donors and volunteers, and everyone who came out in support of this important event.