PORTLAND, Maine — In a limited-audience outdoor event held at the Gerald E. Talbot Community School in Portland on Thursday, the Maine Department of Education and Educate Maine named fourth grade teacher Cindy Soule Maine’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
Students and colleagues at the school were able to watch the event via a live broadcast from their classrooms.
Soule's journey began in May, when she was named the 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. She, along with 15 other County Teachers of the Year, was selected from a pool of more than 300 teachers who were nominated earlier this year. In August, Soule was named one of three state finalists before being named the 2021 Teacher of the Year.
“We are proud to announce that Cindy Soule is the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year!” Heather Whitaker, 2020 Maine Teacher of the Year and member of the Teacher of the Year State Review Panel, said. “Cindy has been a dedicated member of the Talbot School Community for 20 years. She is a life-long learner who is committed to the craft of teaching and building strong relationships with her students, colleagues, and community. We will learn so much from her passion for teaching inquiry-based science and literacy!”
The Maine Department of Education said Soule has an innate ability to create a learning community that disrupts the opportunity gap. For twenty of her twenty-one years of teaching, she has been committed to one of Maine’s most diverse schools, the Gerald E. Talbot Community School (formerly Riverton Elementary School), in Portland.
Soule fosters a dynamic learning environment that inspires curiosity and citizenship in her fourth-grade students. A lifelong resident of Maine, she developed an appreciation for the natural world. This passion is evident in her teaching. She grounds learning in real world contexts and encourages students to construct scientific understanding through observation, questioning, and collaborative thinking. Through inquiry and discourse, Soule empowers students to see themselves as meaningful contributors to their community. This work is recognized by her Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching candidacy.
Soul contributes to a positive culture of collective efficacy where students thrive. She partners with community organizations to include Side X Side, the Maine Audubon, and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. She serves as a representative on the Portland Schools Literacy Committee, Talbot Leadership Team, Building Steering Committee, RTI Team, and Science Teams. On behalf of students, Soule is a recipient of grants from Portland Education Foundation, TD Bank and DonorsChoose.
Soule holds a Master of Science in Special Education from the University of Southern Maine and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Maine at Orono. A 2020 Funds for Teachers Fellow, she looks forward to continued professional discovery and learning.
Cindy was nominated in January by her colleague Brooke Teller, STEM Coordinator for Portland Public Schools and the 2017 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. Brooke shared in her nomination:
Cindy is an extraordinary teacher for many reasons. Cindy has dedicated most of her nineteen years in education to the students of Riverton Elementary School. At Riverton, she has been in the role of special educator, literacy coach and now pioneering science curriculum developer. She told me that each time she is presented with a new initiative, she is 'all in', wanting to do whatever she can to benefit her students. I can think of no better example of an extraordinary teacher than one that is always looking out for her students and on a continuous path for her own improvement. In my role as Science Coach, I have been helping Riverton develop a science curriculum. It will be the first comprehensive curriculum in the Portland Public School district. Cindy has been a leader in this work. This past summer she participated in a training from the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. Kate Cook, who facilitated the work had this to say about Cindy: "I had the privilege of getting to know Cindy through a professional learning pathway focused on the Next Generation Science Standards. In working with Cindy, it became immediately clear to me that she is an incredible educator for her students and an inspirational leader amongst her colleagues. Cindy believes, fervently, in taking her students' thinking seriously, helping every single student in her class progress, and in advancing critical and creative thinking. Her belief in her students is infectious amongst her colleagues. She has a zeal for continuing to advance her own learning and a deep passion for helping her students and colleagues learn that is refreshing, hopeful, and desperately needed in the teaching profession.
The Teacher of the Year Program is a year-long process that involves educator portfolio and resume submissions, interviews, oral presentations, and classroom visits made by a selection panel comprised of State Board of Education members, school administrators, Maine Department of Education staff, former Teachers of the Year, and other Maine business partners.
As the 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year, Soule will spend her year of service advocating for students and teachers and speaking to the importance of education in preparing Maine students for the future. She will represent Maine in the National Teacher of the Year program.
On behalf of the Maine Department of Education, the Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led advocacy organization, in partnership with the Maine State Teachers of the Year Association and the Maine State Board of Education. Funding for the program is generously provided by Maine businesses., including the program’s lead sponsor, Bangor Savings Bank. Other program sponsors include Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, the Maine State Lottery, Unum and the Silvernail Family.