St. John Valley

St. Agatha educator named chair of State Board of Education

ST. AGATHA, Maine — Fern Desjardins knew from the time she was a first-grader at Memorial School in the tiny town of St. Agatha that she wanted to become a teacher.

Not only did she achieve this goal, but Desjardins was recently named chair of the Maine State Board of Education. 

Desjardins, 69, was inspired to follow her career path in the way many children are, by school teachers of her own. 

“As a 6-year-old in Mrs. Imelda Boucher’s grade one classroom, I remember telling her that I wanted to be a school teacher ‘when I grow up’,” Desjardins said. “I thought she was the kindest, most helpful and knowledgeable person in my life other than my family. I respected her greatly, as I did my Aunt Cecile Ouellette who taught elementary school in Frenchville. I wanted to be just like them.” 

Fern Desjardins

Desjardins said she truly realized her goal was attainable when her cousin, Judy Ayotte Paradis, became a school teacher.  

Desjardins earned her Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine in 2005 and worked for 43 years in RSU 33/SAD 33 as a teacher, elementary school principal and superintendent of schools before retiring in 2017.

“I always considered my employment in SAD 33 as both my job and my community service to the towns I love and that are truly the fabric of my being,” Desjardins said. “I worked tirelessly to make ‘my school’ and the school system the best that it could be.”

To characterize Desjardins as a retired educator is far from accurate. 

After leaving her superintendent job at RSU 33/SAD 33, Desjardins accepted an invitation by the Maine Department of Education to serve as a facilitator to regional groups of School Administrative Units in planning and developing regionalization project proposals. 

In March 2018, then Gov. Paul LePage nominated Desjardins for appointment to the State Board of Education.  

“I felt so blessed to be given the opportunity to continue fulfilling my passion to serve in public education,” Desjardins said. “It’s what I love to do and it makes my life complete.”

As a board member, she has served on the School Construction Committee, Certification and Higher Education Committee, Maine Charter School Commission and a number of other committees. 

“I impact education on a larger scale at the state level than I could at the local level,” Desjardins said. 

Her impact on education would actually prove to be a nationwide endeavor.

She was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2019 where she currently serves as chair of the Public Education Positions Committee.

“Our schools influence student attitudes, social behavior, and a sense of belonging and responsibility,” Desjardins said. “They provide a vehicle to help ensure that our students are career ready, life ready and college ready when they graduate from high school, and that they have the knowledge and skills to be productive, contributing members of our society. That’s what I want for all our students.”

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