Two MDI teachers earn excellence awards

Rebecca Edmondson poses at the State Capitol in Augusta after being honored as Hancock County Teacher of the Year.

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Rebecca Edmondson, long-time music teacher at Connors Emerson School in Bar Harbor, has been named 2022 Hancock County Teacher of the Year. 

Tonya Prentice, a teacher at Tremont Consolidated School, is one of only 10 middle school science teachers nationwide to be selected to participate in the 2020 National STEM Scholarship Program. 

The program provides the teachers with advanced training in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and support for a project they want to undertake. 

Teacher of the Year 

Edmondson and 15 other teachers were recognized as county teachers of the year in a ceremony at the State Capitol last Thursday. The Maine Department of Education will announce the names of up to eight semifinalists in June and up to three finalists in August. The teacher of the year will be announced in October. 

Edmondson has taught music at Conners Emerson since 1990. She is the founder and conductor of TEMPO: The Eastern Maine Pops Orchestra for Young Musicians. 

“Rebecca’s love of music is evident in all that she does; she lives and breathes music,” said Conners Emerson Acting Principal Heather Webster.  

“She has inspired a generation of musicians from her work with the Emerson Orchestra, Show Choir and TEMPO who have continued to have music as a large part of their lives.  

She is flexible in her thinking, has a growth mindset and is an effective communicator, qualities that have helped to forge positive bonds with students, parents and peers. This recognition could not go to a more dedicated individual.” 

Teacher of the year nominations are submitted by members of their local school community, and the winner is selected by a panel of teachers, principals and community business leaders. 

I teach because of the inspiring teachers who influenced me, from vibrant classroom teachers to private instructors who demanded excellence to my own family members,” Edmondson said.  

“It is an honor to nurture the love of learning in students and to bring out their best, to discover their own creative voice.” 

Tonya Prentice

STEM Scholar 

The National STEM Scholarship Program selects teachers from a national pool of applicants based solely on their description of a “big idea” project they would implement if funds were available.  

Projects are chosen for their potential for maximum impact in middle school classrooms, where studies have shown that students begin to make STEM career decisions.  

Asked about her chosen project, Prentice began by noting that her school backs up to Bass Harbor Marsh. 

“I want to focus on stormwater runoff and water quality and sea level change,” she said. “I would love to do testing and monitoring as an ongoing project in which we collect data as the years go on, and also look at certain infrastructures in the community and how they are being affected by these changes. 

“I really love to do projects with the kids here on the island, project-based learning so they have a better idea of their place.” 

The STEM Scholarship Program is a collaboration between the National Stem Cell Foundation and The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University. STEM Scholars spend a week at the university in early summer. 

“We’ll be working with some of their professors and other STEM specialists from around the country, and we will all be able to collaborate with each other,” Prentice said. 

“Everything is completely paid for, which is amazing for professional development for teachers.” 

The STEM Scholarship Program will pay her up to $2,000 for supplies she needs for her project. And she will attend next year’s National Science Conference in Atlanta with all expenses paid. 

“It’s like I won the lottery,” she said. “I’m still kind of in awe.” 

This is Prentice’s first year at Tremont Consolidated School. She taught previously at Woodstock Elementary School in Oxford County and was named that county’s teacher of the year in 2020. She was Maine’s recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2016. 

Prentice is currently president of the Maine Science Teachers Association. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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