Maine educator to share insight on trauma, learning

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle will present Brittany Ray, the director of TREE: Transforming Rural Experience in Education and the 2007 Maine Teacher of the Year, as the next speaker in its 2018-2019 Distinguished Lecturer Series.

Ray will speak on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. During her talk, titled Creating Trauma-Informed Schools and Communities by Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences, Ray will discuss how people can work together to create environments that foster healing and help students to grow. This event is free and open to the public.

During her visit, Ray will also present several workshops for UMPI faculty, education students, local teachers and educational technicians. Local educators interested in attending workshops on March 7 or 8, which will provide a more comprehensive look at Adverse Childhood Experiences and how to address them in the classroom, should contact Scott Harrison with the Central Aroostook Council on Education at 207-592-0223 or, or register online at

According to Ray, understanding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how they impact behavior and learning is key to creating trauma-informed, resilience-focused schools. Becoming trauma informed, she explained, is not simply training but a true mindset shift that requires policy changes on many levels. Participants will learn about ACEs and the corresponding policy changes most needed in schools and communities in order for students to thrive.

What we know from ACEs is that a trauma-informed approach is needed in schools and that, without acknowledging and responding to the impact adversity has on developing brains and on social and emotional development, we will never close the achievement gap,” Ray said. “TREE is committed to ensuring that all people learn more about ACEs and promotes working together to create environments that foster healing and resilience in our schools.”

Born and raised in Washington County, Ray graduated from Narraguagus High School in 1989 and attended Colby College, where she majored in English and minored in education. In 1993, she graduated as Colby’s valedictorian and class marshal. She then returned to Washington County to pursue her passion for education, teaching English at Machias Memorial High School. In 1995, she had the opportunity to return to her former high school to teach English, where she remained as a teacher and English Department Chair for 11 years.

In 2007, Ray was named Maine Teacher of the Year, becoming the first teacher to represent Washington County in more than 25 years. This same year, she transitioned from the classroom to administration, becoming Narraguagus High School’s guidance director/school counselor. In 2009, she received her master’s degree in school counseling from Husson University.

Her experiences in the classroom and in school counseling fueled her passion for building relationships and developing strategies to help mitigate poverty-related barriers for her students. In her time as school counselor, she wrote, obtained, and administered various grants linked to assisting students living in poverty.

In January 2016, Ray learned about TREE and said she knew it could be the key to helping those students experiencing the most adversity. She is now the director of TREE, a division of the Cobscook Community Learning Center. TREE seeks to support schools and teachers in better understanding the impact of “toxic stress” on children and how adverse childhood experiences impact learning and behavior.

Ray resides in Milbridge, Maine, with her husband, Ron Smith, and is the mother of four children.

For more information about this event, contact the university’s Community and Media Relations office at 768-9452 or email

Submitted by the Community and Media Relations Office of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

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