Presque Isle science teacher named Aroostook County Teacher of the Year

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle High School science teacher Andrew Kirby was recently named the Aroostook County Teacher of the Year by the Maine Department of Education.

Kirby, who has been teaching science for grades 9-to-12, is also the girls varsity tennis coach. He is one of 16 teachers, representing each county, selected from 406 nominations from across the state for this annual distinction.

Following a rigorous application process, the county teachers of the year are chosen by a panel of teachers, principals and business community members within the county. And all 16 were honored on Wednesday in a virtual announcement on Maine Department of Education’s YouTube page. 

“I teach so that students have a positive adult role model who inspires them to build positive relationships, self-esteem and self-confidence,” Kirby said during the Zoom awards announcement. 

Teaching for 13 years, Kirby has been at Presque Isle High School for the past three years. He  taught science at Caribou High School from 2008 to 2017, he was an eighth grade science teacher at Holbrook Middle School in Holden from 2017 to 2018, and then in the 2018/2019 school year, he started teaching at Presque Isle High School.

Mr. Kirby’s content area knowledge is beyond comparison,” Presque High School Principal David Bartlett said. “He currently teaches Forensics, Applied Biology, and Physical/Earth Science. “Even though all his content knowledge and willingness to be a lifelong learner make Mr. Kirby an exceptional educator, it is his empathy to students that makes him truly stand out. He is attuned and respects the emotional well-being of his students. When he senses potential problems, Mr. Kirby is able to use his connections with students to provide appropriate support.” 

He is one of those teachers who was easy to nominate, Presque High School Director of Education Andrea Hallett said, adding that as a teacher and coach he cheers students on inside and outside the classroom.  

“It’s refreshing that others can see what we see in Andrew,” Hallett said. “He takes the time to meet with students outside of class, noticing when a student is struggling or may have the information but needs to get the answers out in a different form. Each student is given the same treatment.”

It’s Kirby’s teaching style that draws students to him. And perhaps it is his interactive, hands-on approach that works.

“I spend very little time lecturing the students about the content and instead help guide them as they work through the content and process the information themselves,” he said. “I am constantly moving around the classroom checking in on students and student groups to help them work through the material and deepen their understanding.  

“I honestly see my role as a teacher more as a coach or facilitator of the class,” he continued. “I feel that this teaching style is what is best for my students and every time students get excited when they make a connection on their own is a highlight of my day.”

Bartlett said that this past year, during pandemic changes in teaching, Kirby was invaluable to administration and staff in regards to virtual instructional platforms. 

“He is currently enrolled in a Master’s program which focuses on this aspect of education,” Bartlett said. “Mr. Kirby has taken the initiative of offering his advice and expertise in this area to colleagues, which has been extremely helpful during the uncertain times we have all experienced during the pandemic.”

Bartlett does not recall having a recent Presque Isle High School teacher named Aroostook County Teacher of the Year. 

I enjoy learning about my students and what their interests are outside of school,” Kirby said. “This helps me build positive relationships with the students which in turn helps build a positive environment in my classroom.  When students know that their teacher is truly interested in their lives it opens up the doors of communication and helps build a mutual respect between the teacher and their students.”

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