By Brenda LaVerdiere, the 2015 Franklin County Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the Maine State Teacher of the Year.
Imagine that you are a fourth grade teacher working in an economically deprived school in the foothills of western Maine. You teach in a small town where the factory and farming jobs that used to be the economic engine of your community no longer exist. In this once thriving community, many parents now struggle to find jobs that pay a living wage. Many parents struggle to buy school supplies and clothes for their children.
And too many struggle to put food on the table or to keep their homes warm during the long, cold winter months.
On a blustery, cold day in November, you welcome a new student, a 9-year-old boy who tells you that he and his family have just driven across the country to live in his aunt’s small apartment. He shares one bedroom with his mother and two younger siblings, and hopes that one day he will have his own bedroom or at least his own bed.
He seems fearful, distant and sad much of the time. He is living in poverty. As his teacher you realize that building a relationship with this child will be critical, but it will take time.