Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Friday, April 19, 2024

Penobscot leader inspires RES students about Maine’s native history

By Lorraine Glowczak

To gain a better understanding of indigenous history and culture, Raymond Elementary School invited John Bear Mitchell, a Penobscot Nation citizen and lecturer specializing in Wabanaki and Multicultural Studies at the University of Maine in Orono, to speak with each class from kindergarten through third grade on Friday, March 29.

Penobscot Nation citizen and UMaine lecturer Jon Bear
Mitchell speaks to a room full of Raymond Elementary
School students last month. He was invited to the school
with the hope to dispel myths and stereotypes about
Native Americans. PHOTO BY GARY HARRIMAN  
Susan Brackett, a fourth-grade teacher at RES who led the project, said the purpose of the presentation was to educate RES students from an American Indian’s perspective and how their life is today.

“We hope to dispel myths and stereotypes about Native Americans and to ignite an interest in students to learn more about past and present Native Americans in Maine,” Brackett said.

Through interactive music and the art of storytelling, Mitchell engaged RES students, offering insights into Maine's indigenous heritage, and addressing concerns regarding the stereotypes and myths people may have about his culture. As a former elementary school teacher and principal, Mitchell has years of experience connecting with students on their level.

The Penobscot leader and educator began each presentation with a call-and-response chant. Mitchell explained why he always begins with this interactive chant when speaking to his audiences, especially young children.

“This gets the students involved, creating a comfortable space for them,” he said. “By engaging children with the chant, they can better immerse themselves in the cultural experience, preparing them for storytelling and singing. When a person feels the experience first, they are more comfortable hearing and listening to it.”

After the chant, Mitchell shared a story that is still taught to Native American children today.

“Long ago, the people of the land experienced a 48-hour snowstorm,” he began. “Realizing they only had three days of food left, the hunters were sent out to search for food. They hunted for a very long time without seeing any signs of animals. They returned to their families, feeling disappointed. The hunters did this the second day. Again, no signs of animals. The third day, the same thing. Feeling sad, they didn’t want to return to the village, disappointing their families who relied upon them for survival.”

He related that the hunters came upon a group of dancing rabbits who seemed to be celebrating. Curious, the hunters asked what they were doing. The rabbits said that their dancing promoted community with each other while celebrating the impending arrival of spring. The hunters, desperate for food, pleaded with the rabbits to help them. Moved by their plight, the rabbits agreed to share their lessons. Guided by the rabbits' counsel, the hunters finally succeeded in their quest, bringing food home to their village.

“The story of ‘The Dancing Rabbit’ teaches lessons about resilience, cooperation, and the importance of respecting nature,” said Mitchell. “It emphasizes the connection between humans and the natural world, highlighting how working together and respecting the rhythms of nature can lead to abundance and prosperity.”

During his presentation, Mitchell also introduced elements of his ancient Passamaquoddy language which included singing songs with rattles and drums all naturally made by hand and spoke to the students about names given to us by our parents.

“How many here have three names, a first, middle, and last name,” he asked the students.

Everyone raised their hands. But only one hand was raised when he asked if their middle name was an animal.

“The purpose is to emphasize our shared humanity. Despite the diversity in our middle names, whether they're uncommon or familiar, we remain a part of today’s modern society,” Mitchell said. “Alongside our Christian names, we still carry on our traditional cultural names, celebrating the richness of our heritage in today's world.”

He also pointed out other ways in which Native American culture integrates into contemporary society.

“We go to movies, we travel to different countries, we are educated, we are like all people with the same needs and wants,” Mitchell said.

Brackett agreed.

“Mitchell’s presentation showed students that Native Americans today are just like them,” she said. “This helped to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes that the students may have had before his visit.”

RES third grader Shyanne Normand shared what she learned from Mitchell and why.

“It’s kind of cool to learn about his culture because you get to know people differently and get to know what happened in their life.” Normand said. “It was really fun to speak an ancient language, too.”

She said that she realized from attending Mitchell’s presentation that Native Americans are fun teachers who dress in modern clothing.

The students' learning about Native Americans will not stop with Mitchell's presentation.

“To expand upon the students’ education of Native culture, John Bear Mitchell is providing the school with a variety of lesson plans and information that we will be able to use in the future,” Brackett said. <

Friday, August 12, 2022

New JSMS principal brings 20 years of experience to RSU 14

New Jordan-Small Middle School Principal Michelle Brann
is committed to providing each students with an excellent
education and many opportunities to learn and grow as
young adults. During her spare time, she enjoys fishing
and boating on Casco Bay with her family.

By Lorraine Glowczak

Michelle Brann officially began her new post as the Jordon-Small Middle School principal on Wednesday, Aug. 3, when the RSU 14 Board of Directors formally accepted the hiring committee’s nomination of this experienced educational leader.

For the past 21 years, Brann, who replaces former JSMS Principal Randy Crockett, has been a classroom teacher in the Lake Region School and Wells-Ogunquit School Districts, with her most recent position being as assistant principal at Lake Region Middle School.

RSU 14 Superintendent Chris Howell had the opportunity to speak with her former colleagues at Lake Region Middle School, who spoke of Brann with high regard.

“Each individual described Michelle as an accomplished educational leader with a strong personal, moral/ethical compass,” Howell said. “In addition, they shared that she is a strong communicator who has consistently demonstrated an ability to build strong relationships with students, staff and the community.”

One of Brann’s visions for JSMS students is to provide the best educational opportunities available while at the same time acknowledging there is not a “one size fits all” instructive approach.

“I hope to prepare students by readying them for a successful high school experience,” Brann said. “Student success is recognizing that no two students are alike and meeting them where they are by building relationships. Once you build strong bonds with students, they feel supported in learning and growing authentically and in personally meaningful ways.”
Brann also said that encouraging students to explore their interests contributes to educational success.

“Middle school is that time in students’ lives to learn about themselves, knowing what feels comfortable in moving forward – not just academically but through extra-curricular opportunities as well.”

Along with embracing student success, Brann said that she also intends to spend her first year understanding the JSMS community’s tradition and culture. She will begin by being an active listener.

“Listening to all the voices in the community – staff, teachers and parents – and learning their needs and goals will be among my priorities as JSMS principal,” she said. “I have a very collaborative approach to leadership, and I believe it is important to have conversations to gather an understanding of all involved to move forward positively and cohesively.”

Brann said she envisions her role as the JSMS principal as a bridge between all community partners.

In addition to her teaching and leadership experiences, Brann has an impressive resume full of training and advanced degrees that she will bring to the position.

After graduating from the Extended Teacher Education Program at the University of Southern Maine, Brann began her teaching career in 2001 as a social studies teacher at Lake Region High School, transferring to Wells High School two years later, teaching there until 2017. 
“While there, I worked with students of varying needs and abilities,” she said. “I co-taught classes and was the social studies teacher for the alternative education program. I have been the Assistant Principal at Lake Region Middle School for the past five years. In May of 2021, my love of life-long learning led me to obtain my Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine. I continuously seek opportunities to learn and grow as a school leader and look forward to learning and leading JSMS.” 
When Brann, who lives in Falmouth, is not busy taking classes or working as a collaborative leader, she is engaged in fun adventuresome activities such as boating and fishing on Casco Bay with her husband, son and daughter. Her family is also busy with high school sports.

“I am very much a hockey mom,” Brann said, whose children both attend Falmouth High School. “My daughter is the athlete in the family, playing hockey and lacrosse. I am a member of both the Hockey Board and Boosters Board in Falmouth since we are so involved with sports and travel to so many games.”

Brann’s family shares their home with a Maine Coon mix cat and two dogs. “One of our dogs is 90 pounds. It’s like having a horse in the house so there is never a dull moment in our family,” she said.

Despite her busy schedule, Brann finds the time to exercise. She walks five miles daily with a supportive group of friends as often as possible and has run the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth five times. “I am not going to run it this year but have plans to do so again in the future.”

Brann said she feels extremely fortunate to have been selected to become part of the RSU 14 community.

“In the short time that I have been here, I have been immensely impressed by the dedication, professionalism, and kindness that has been demonstrated by the administration, staff and the community,” she said. “I am excited to be here and am committed to providing each student with an excellent education and many opportunities to learn and grow as young adults.”

With this same excitement, the community and staff of Windham and Raymond look forward to the opportunities that Brann will provide for the district.

“It is without a doubt that Lake Region is sad to see Michelle leave their district, but we are delighted and fortunate to have her join RSU 14,” Howell said. <

Friday, May 3, 2019

Spanish Honor Society promotes Spanish language and culture in community

WHS Spanish Honor Society
By Elizabeth Richards

The Spanish Honor Society (SHS) at Windham High School is a group of highly dedicated, high achieving students who enjoy Spanish and help promote the language and Hispanic culture in their community.

Club officers this year are Annika Johnston (President, senior), Maddie Fox (Vice President, senior), Emily Magoon (Secretary, junior), Annie Stevens (Treasurer, senior) and Sarah Symalla (Aguilitos coordinator, junior).

The club operates periodic Kids’ Night Out events to raise money for activities and scholarships. Parents can drop their children from preschool to fifth grade at the event, where they participate in Spanish related activities and games, Johnston said.

The event, which happens a few times each year, allows parents a chance to go out on their own, gives the students in the club a chance to spend time with the younger kids, and is a good fundraiser for the club, Magoon said.

Fox said that there are many children who return each time the event is held. When they leave, they say they’re already looking forward to the next one, she said.  “It’s just really great to have that experience with them and get them to start enjoying Spanish at a young age,” Fox said.

The next Kids’ Night Out won’t be until next school year. Parents of elementary children receive notice of the event through the school list serve.

Fundraisers support the annual $1000 scholarship the club awards to a graduating senior. The club also occasionally funds scholarships for students taking trips to other countries, Johnston said.

Since 2002, the club has offered a program, Aguilitos (little eagles), specifically intended to promote Spanish with younger children. Through this program, club members plan and present lessons to groups of elementary children on a regular basis.

Magoon said “It’s really cool to watch them learn and remember all these words and be able to put things together throughout the year.”  She said she enjoys the relaxed, but educational environment, and being able to nurture the younger kids and watch them grow.  This year, she said, the group she’s been with has completed several units, including colors, numbers, animals and days of the week.

Another activity of the SHS is a luncheon for staff, where club members bring in Spanish foods they have prepared. “That’s really cool too, to get to know more about the culture through cooking,” Magoon said.  She added that she thinks SHS is important because it gives her an opportunity for social connection in a different way.

“I think that what we’re doing is important, especially for those of us who really want to study in Spanish and foreign language,” Johnston said.  “Also, giving back to our seniors and elementary schoolers is an important aspect of what we do,” she added.

Magoon said “It’s really important, I think, to get kids involved in languages because of the way our world is today. There’s so much global interaction now, ways that we can talk to other people, and I think languages are really important for that. A lot of other countries start English early on, so I think it’s a really good opportunity that we provide here at WHS in getting kids involved early on.”

Advisor Trish Soucy said, “Being in SHS gives students the opportunity to spread cultural awareness,” said SHS Advisor Trish Soucy. “Being a part of these activities helps students make a connection with the Spanish they are learning in class and how it can be used in a positive way in the community.”