Edith Berger, sixth grade writing and social studies teacher at Waldoboro’s Miller School, was named the 2023 Lincoln County Teacher of the Year last week. She is the third county Teacher of the Year from RSU 40 in the last four years.
The award, jointly organized by Educate Maine and the Maine Department of Education, recognizes public school educators in the county and state each year.
Berger was surprised with an assembly in her honor at the school on Friday, May 12, after being honored at the state house with her fellow county teachers the night before.
Two former students, Noah Morris and Zaniah Puchalski, and two fellow Teachers of the Year joined the assembly. Bill Hinkley, a math teacher at Medomak Valley High School, won the county honor in 2021; Heather Webster, English teacher at the high school, received it in 2020.
A fifth special guest, Lt. Tim Cotton, formerly of the Bangor Police Department, attended through written remarks he shared with Webster, who read them to students. Cotton, an author and retired police officer, is a favorite writer of Berger’s and recently visited her classroom.
“It’s clear why you are the Lincoln County Teacher of the Year for 2023,” Cotton wrote, “for you desire to instill a love of the subject rather than creating little robots more concerned about corrections than the connections we can make through the written word. Students need both. You provide that to them.”
Hinkley told students Berger was nominated by Miller School Principal Julia Levensaler and chosen from over 350 public school teachers in the county.
Puchalski said she remembered Berger reading students a chapter or two from a book before announcements each morning.
“It was the best part of my day,” she said. “It made a difference. I still think about those books today.”
Morris described Berger as having “unlimited patience.” He said he used to fidget in class, and that instead of getting frustrated with him, she brought in a doormat so he could tap his feet without disrupting his classmates.
“You could not tick her off,” Morris said to laughter from the audience.
After these speeches, Berger received handmade cards from her current sixth-grade students.
“I wanted kids to see that everyday people can write,” Berger said after the assembly.
Hinkley, who serves with Webster on the selection committee as former award winner, said that “it’s amazing how hard it is” to choose between applicants.
As an honoree, Berger will serve with other teachers as an advisor to the Maine Department of Education and an ambassador for public education in the state, according to the program’s website.
“I would not be here without Julia (Levensaler) and Miller,” Berger said. “RSU 40 built me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Miller.”
Berger said she was excited to have a platform to talk about the strengths of educators and the district as a whole.
“I teach because my colleagues and our students overwhelm me with inspiration, and I want those children to be inspired and cherished as well. I’m on their side and they need to know it every day,” her profile on the program’s website reads.
The Maine Teacher of the Year, selected from the 16 county teachers, will be announced this fall.