Working: Maureen Gordon

By Patrisha McLean | Jun 19, 2009

Camden — Maureen Gordon happily taught Outward Bound classes to adults for 10 years and spent a year in the middle school (“We’ll skip that one,” she said with a chuckle).

Then 23 years ago, as with Goldilocks and the three chairs, she found the perfect fit. “They just love everything,” she said about kindergartners. “They love learning, they love life. When they set out to do something they’re not thinking what’s cool or what other people think. The curiosity, the eagerness ... it just doesn’t get any better.”

At work, Maureen prompts entries into a teddy bear’s journal and imparts how Miss Rumphius made the world a more beautiful place. “Every child in my room is reading,” Maureen said. “They weren’t at the beginning of the year but they are now.”

Kindergarten has changed dramatically over the quarter century of Maureen’s career. Once “a warm place to learn social skills and develop basic readiness skills for school,” it’s now where children learn to read and do higher math, Maureen said. “The challenge for a kindergarten teacher is to do all that and not leave behind the really important skills of learning to share and cooperate and taking the time to discover," she said.

“I still believe that play is a kindergartner’s work," Maureen said. "If you provide the right enriched play environment, kids will learn so many of the things we want them to learn academically.”

When the kindergarten moved from Elm Street a few years ago, the teachers worried about the lack of an elaborate play set at the new location. But the green space that Maureen said is a really important feature for kindergarten proved to be more than adequate: “In the winter it’s playing in the snow and in the spring and fall they spend every minute of recess catching bugs.”

Maureen and her assistant Holly Merriam, and the other three Maine School Administrative District 28 kindergarten teacher teams, create a rich learning experience from the ants, beetles, worms, dragonflies and caterpillars captured so enthusiastically. “We take the bugs into the classroom and take out the magnifying glasses, and they end up writing about bugs in their journals and drawing pictures of them,” Maureen said.

“One of the wonderful things about my job is how it’s different every year because the kids are always different,” she said. What remains the same is the size of the little chairs, and Maureen’s emotions at the beginning and end of each school year. In September, “it’s exciting but a little overwhelming," she said. "It’s like, oh boy, what a long way to go.”

And in June? “I always feel really proud that I’m sending a group of kids forward that have come so far," Maureen said. "But I’m a little sad too because you think, oh, if I could just take them to the next step.”
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