GUILFORD (NEWS CENTER Maine) — Joseph Hennessey was named Maine’s 2019 Teacher of the Year on Friday.
He isn't too fond of surprises, so the Piscataquis Community High School decided to break with a decades-old tradition and announce the winner earlier in the week, taking Friday to celebrate him.
Mr. Hennessey teaches 11th and 12th grade high school students English, AP Literature, and a few elective classes and clubs.
Prior to his arrival at PCHS five years ago, Mr. Hennessey taught at public and charter schools for a number of years in Colorado.
Despite being an educator "from away," Mr. Hennessey has, in his short time in Vacationland, gained the appreciation and respect of his entire community.
NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with Mr. Hennessey when he became one of three finalists out of a pool of more than 300 nominated for teacher of the year.
He said he was “humbled and honored” by the whole experience and was pleased with how much good press his nomination brings to the rural, central Maine community.
Mr. Hennessey was given the award in an all-school assembly inside the gymnasium in Guilford Friday.
He says it was his school‘s principal, John Keane, who nominated him in the first place.
The school's principal, superintendent, retired educators, students, and former "Teacher of the Year" recipients all turned out to speak about Mr. Hennessey, share some anecdotes, and poke fun at some of his more endearing quirks.
High school senior Ethan Chadwick says he had little doubt Mr. Hennessey wouldn't win, based on how well the group interview with other members of the PCHS community went.
"I could look out at all of the people that were interviewing us at the group interview that we had and I could see their faces warm up the whole time, laughing, and then raising their eyebrows like 'wow, that's impressive,' and laughing warmheartedly," said Chadwick. "They could get a sense of who he really was."
"It's surreal to think that you're the center of attention, and for a person who's not comfortable with that usually, I acclimated to it over time, but it's wonderful and validating to think that the efforts that teachers make every day do leave a lasting impact whether or not that gratification is delayed or not," said Hennessey.
According to a press release from Maine’s department of education, “Maine’s next Teacher of the Year will travel throughout the state during the year of service to advocate for students and teachers and speak to the importance of education in preparing Maine people for the future.”
Mr. Hennessey says he knows next year won't look like anything he expects, but he is looking forward to the opportunity to speak on behalf of Maine's rural schools, and hopefully solve a problem or two that he sees with the school system.