FRENCHBORO — A whole new world awaits Mindi Vestal, who was recently hired as the new teacher on Frenchboro.
A Tucson, Ariz., native, Vestal, 28, will begin her stint at Frenchboro School on Long Island this fall. She will replace outgoing teacher Jan Keiper and teach four students, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade, at the one-room schoolhouse.
Unsure of her actual date of arrival in Maine, Vestal is determined to be here to run in the island’s All the Road We’ve Got Race in August.
“I really want to be there before the lobster festival,” she said, referring to the annual celebration that is kicked off by the almost-5K run.
During her interview process with the school district earlier this month, Vestal treated her mom to a visit to Frenchboro for Mother’s Day. As they were heading towards Long Island, the ferry boat operator pointed out a rock upon which several seals were basking in the sun.
“This is a whole new world of opportunities,” Vestal said she remembers thinking, while standing in a field of dry, brown desert grass near her current home in Arizona for this interview.
During her visit to Long Island, Vestal spent an evening with Keiper, who she said provided a lot of clarity and support for her upcoming transition.
Frenchboro is located eight miles from Mount Desert Island and reported 61 residents in 2010. Many school board meetings are conducted with the help of technology so that all necessary school officials can attend without traveling by boat. Aside from the school, the island’s historical society is the only other organization around. There is no general store, gas station or restaurant to serve island residents. All provisions come from the mainland. None of that is a deterrent for Vestal.
“I’m just a really adventurous person, so that’s a big pull for me,” she said.
When Vestal showed her father a photo of the island and where she would be teaching, his only comment was, ‘Well, good luck.’
“My parents, even though island living may not be for them, are really in love with Maine,” she said.
Vestal is not new to Maine. During her teen years, she spent many summers here and returned to attend the University of Maine in Orono to study chemistry. When she married her husband in 2014, Vestal chose Maine in December as their honeymoon spot.
“She certainly stood out for me because Maine was familiar to her,” said Marc Gousse, MDI Regional School System superintendent, adding that Vestal’s background in science also was an attractive aspect.
As her husband approaches the end of his career in the Air Force, Vestal has been in search of a job in a place where they can establish a family. Her Maine search began with Monhegan Island, located in Casco Bay. When she spoke with the teacher there, they recommended looking on the Mount Desert Island Regional School System website.
She plans to bring her two large dogs with her on the island, but Loyd Vestal has not yet decided what his next career moves are or where they’ll take him. “Teaching positions on outer islands are unique entities,” said Gousse. “It’s a huge commitment.”
Vestal wanted an environment where she could work closely with students and their families.
She brings four years of teaching experience working with children from kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as a masters degree in curriculum and instruction in special education.
“I’m a really good fit for that island,” Vestal said about the Frenchboro School position, “because I have experience with kindergarten through 12th grade.”
For the upcoming 2018-19 school year, there will be four girls, from two families, attending the school. They were involved in the interview process with the school board when Vestal visited the island.
“It was nice to see what they were curious about,” she said, referring to the students’ questions.
But it may have been then that Vestal realized the true scope of her pursuit.
“My whole classroom, plus five adults are in this room, and it’s not even crowded,” she said she remembered thinking.