Feature Teacher: Leeanna Cloutier
Each month we profile a different teacher in the Camden and Rockport public school systems so the community gets to know the strength of the teaching staff in the classrooms. These profiles are compiled, written and submitted by Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Lucas Fischer.
"It is all about empowering,” Leeanna Cloutier told me. This is Mrs. Cloutier’s fifth year teaching special education as a Resource Room teacher at the Camden-Rockport Elementary School. In the Resource Room, she works with students from kindergarten to third grade who have been diagnosed with a learning disability. Mrs. Cloutier started her career in our district at the former Rockport Elementary School where she worked for five years before she moving to the Camden-Rockport Middle School. She taught at the middle school for 10 years before “returning” to the Camden-Rockport Elementary School, where she is now.
Mrs. Cloutier double-majored in K-8 education and K-12 special education at the University of Maine in Orono. Despite her more general background, she is also very passionate about math. Mrs. Cloutier believes that it is very important for teachers to have a good background in literacy and math, as she sees a lot of kids who struggle in those areas and they form the basis for most other academic learning. “For us to be effective we really need to be confident in what we are presenting,” she said.
For the past 12 years, Mrs. Cloutier has done brain warm-ups in her classroom to activate students’ brains before instruction. She has gone to the Learning and the Brain conference four times. The Learning and the Brain conference is an international event that takes place in Boston every year and focuses on new discoveries and research on the brain that can help educators. “I am so appreciative to be able to go,” Mrs. Cloutier said. “I always learn something from it that will help with my teaching. It has been extremely beneficial in shaping and enhancing my teaching skills,” she said.
Mrs. Cloutier works tirelessly to find new and different strategies to use in her teaching. “One strategy I use are Habits of Mind,” she said. Habits of Mind are a group of ideals that Mrs. Cloutier (and others) believes are very important in a learning environment. At the moment, her class is working on some of the Habits of Mind, including Persisting, Thinking Independently, and Managing Impulsivity, as well as others. “They are so into it, it’s great,” Mrs. Cloutier said. “I want to get them to feel like they can do it,” she nodded. “They need to take ownership of their learning,” she smiled. She wants students to believe in themselves. “Sometimes I think that kids who struggle in the classroom feel that they just can't do it or that they don't have the capability,” she said. She aims to convince them otherwise.
I asked Mrs. Cloutier to explain the personal significance of her job. “I am making a difference,” she replied. “I hope when I'm working with the students that I'm really lighting the spark under them. It isn't always easy for these kids and they're not always successful. I want them to come in each new day and just give it a little bit more. I want them to feel like they can do anything,” she said. “And they can.”
“I am a lifelong learner,” Mrs. Cloutier told me. “I love languages,” she said. Mrs. Cloutier spent a year learning Arabic. She has also taken Finnish classes. Mrs. Cloutier has Finnish heritage and has friend in Finland who teaches special education. They pass ideas and techniques back and forth to each other. “I really try to stay current with what is going on in the world,” Mrs. Cloutier said. When she was at the middle school, Mrs. Cloutier had her students write their numbers from one to 10 in Arabic, Finnish, Spanish, and French as a warm-up activity. “Anything to get the brain going,” she chuckled.
Aside from learning languages, Mrs. Cloutier also really enjoys visiting the Owls Head Transportation Museum. When she has guests from away staying with her, Mrs. Cloutier always takes them to the Owls Head Transportation Museum. “I love old automobiles,” she told me.
However, Mrs. Cloutier’s main focus is helping her students believe in themselves. “My favorite part is empowering the students so they are convinced they can do anything,” she said. “That's the most rewarding part for me. It is all about empowerment.”
Lucas Fischer is a student intern in the superintendent's office.