Colleagues reflect on Stevens’ devotion to students
FORT KENT, Maine — After he spent more than four decades serving students in the SAD 27 school district, Fort Kent Elementary School principal Gary Stevens will retire in July.
Stevens said he knew he wanted to become an educator from the time he was a middle school student in Old Orchard Beach.
He attended the University of Maine at Fort Kent, from which he graduated in 1976.
“My original plan was to possibly transfer to the University of Southern Maine, but being at UMFK grew on me and it became the niche I was comfortable in,” Stevens said.
He has lived in the Fort Kent area ever since, and first began teaching for the district in 1977.
In 1986 he became assistant principal at FKES. Six years later, Stevens became principal of the school when Principal Roland Labrie passed away unexpectedly shortly before the beginning of the school year.
Those who have worked with Stevens at FKES, including retired educator Patricia Dow, expressed respect and admiration for him.
“I had the privilege of working with Gary Stevens for many years at Fort Kent Elementary School. He was the most professional educator you could ever meet. He brought out the best in people and we didn’t dare complain to him about our work load because he worked harder than all of us,” Dow said.
Friend and former colleague Larry Murphy also praised Stevens.
“I worked closely with Gary for 16 years; throughout his first years as a principal, I was his assistant principal. Throughout those 16 years he struck me as a man who was extreme — extremely organized, extremely diligent and extremely professional,” Murphy said.
“His motto was ‘Do what is best for kids.’ Gary Stevens walked his talk every day. Gary was a hands on principal working closely with the PTOs (parent-teacher organizations) and any other group working with kids.”
Murphy said Stevens’ retirement is well-earned.
“I am glad to call him a friend and am proud that I was able to spend 16 years learning from him. Nobody works as hard as Gary Stevens as his profession–nobody,” he said.
Educator Lori-Ann Saucier, who still teaches at the school, said Stevens will be missed by many for his effectiveness and compassion as an administrator.
“Gary was a very protective administrator. He always used extreme caution when it came to students’ physical safety and emotional well being,” she said. “He was the type of administrator that went above and beyond, as I remember seeing the parent of a child with an injury waiting to see Gary so he could help her with paperwork that would connect her with help from the Shriners.”
Stevens was also supportive of his staff, Saucier said. Her son was being treated at a hospital in Boston, and Stevens helped her to arrange to be there.
“I will never forget the assistance he provided me when my son collapsed with an aortic aneurysm. I was scared,” she said. “Within moments of finding out about my situation, Gary was at my classroom with a map of the various train lines and which ones were closest to the hospital,” she said.
“Before I left for Boston, I was called to the office. When I arrived, Gary had a key to an apartment that his daughter had been staying in while completing her graduate work. Her finals had been during the first week of that month and the remaining portion of the month was paid. There also was a picture of the building, directions of how to use the parking garage, and names and numbers of taxi companies in the area,” she said. “I was able to stay in Boston with no worries other than my son’s health. His kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten by my family.”
Stevens said he is especially proud of three projects he helped to establish while working at FKES: Project Augusta, Exchanging Maine’s Cultures, and the DeBoullie Field Trip.
“I am proud and grateful to tell you that DeBoullie will celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall,” he said.
He said what he most liked about being an educator was “working with a variety of people and the opportunity to help learners shape their futures in a positive direction.”
“I hope the learners may continue to have high quality adults work with them to help them gain the skills they will need to succeed in our world. I also hope their families will stay involved in their lives and provide positive role models for them to emulate,” he said.
Stevens will keep plenty busy during his retirement.
“I plan to enjoy my children and grandchildren, spend time with friends, do some fishing and bird hunting, visit some brothers and sisters, complete some house and yard projects — and possibly tie a few flies,” he said.