Aside from perhaps your parents and siblings, teachers are undoubtedly people in our lives who, from a very young age, help to shape us into the individuals we ultimately become when we're adults.

We asked you who some of your favorite and most influential educators were growing up, and we weighed in with our picks!


JStew: When I was in school, I was lucky. My best subject was English, so I took a lot of extra English classes. In my high school, I always thought the coolest teacher was Mr. David Jackson. He was an odd man in a lot of ways, and that really spoke to me at the time, as I felt pretty odd. It was the 90's, and while everyone was wearing the latest weird 90's fashion, Mr. Jackson wore loud shirts with big 70's ties. His blazers were often at least that old. He drove an old 70's Buick that was about 100 feet long. My sister had him in school too. One time, he was not happy with the kind of attention that the class was paying, so he stood in the trashcan and taught from there. He was willing to go the miracle mile to teach you if you wanted to learn. As opposed to the other English teacher I had who slapped me across the back in front of the entire class. She sucked, hahaha. Also, I have to give a special shout-out to Pat Michaud, my band director in high school. Extremely patient man who taught me a LOT about playing with other musicians. Can't thank that guy enough.

Cori: There were a few teachers who were the "cool" ones in High School. The only one that I actually had a class with, in my opinion, was the coolest! Dr. Fred Jones taught Honors English at Bapst. He was huge into the stone circles and mounds that pepper England, Ireland, and Scotland. It was fascinating to hear him talk about the subject with such passion. He even wrote a book about them called "Chasing the Sun: A Journey in Neolithic Speculation.” Dr. Jones was also the organist and choirmaster at St. John's Episcopal Church, which was right behind John Bapst. Every Friday he would take us on a walk over to the church, invite us to relax in one of the pews, and proceed to play the organ for us for the duration of that class. I think he knew the power that music had to center and relieve stress, and he knew we were all putting such pressure on ourselves, academically, that it was a way he could help us decompress while sharing his talent. I learned a lot from him. We read everything from The Bible to "Beowulf", to Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" in that class. But I also learned the importance of taking a moment to relax and center yourself when you feel stressed out. That's an important lesson, for sure.

I owe a lot to my elementary school music teacher, Jan Smith, and my High School music teacher, Neia Rhodes. They inspired in me a love of music.

Mrs. Rhodes, Cori Skall
Mrs. Rhodes, Cori Skall

My 3rd-grade teacher, Mr. Rackliff taught me about empathy and patience.

Mr. Rackliff, Cori Skall
Mr. Rackliff, Cori Skall

And my kindergarten teacher, Val Kane, gave me my first crack at public speaking when she cast me as the narrator of the "Three Little Pigs" play.

Val Kane, Cori Skall
Val Kane, Cori Skall
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Now that I have kids of my own, there's another set of influential teachers I have to thank. While there are many amazing teachers my kids are lucky enough to have crossed paths with, two stand out as having such a positive impact on them.

The first is Vanessa Rehmeyer. Rehmeyer is a middle school science teacher at All Saints Catholic School.

Vanessa Rehmeyer All Saints Middle School Teacher
Vanessa Rehmeyer All Saints Middle School Teacher

She also coaches the cross-country team and is an overall amazing example of a working mom, wife, and educator. Rehmeyer has a great sense of humor and a gentle way about her. She encourages her students to aim high while inspiring in them a wonderful level of confidence. She finds ways to lift up each student, by noticing what their strengths are and building upon those, rather than constantly dwelling on their challenges. She has a way of making kids feel seen and heard, each one of them. I have seen how empowering that mindset can be in my girls. I am glad my daughters have her to look up to, to challenge them, and to set the bar for excellence. I am grateful for her work and influence in their lives.

The second is Stephen Riitano. Riitano is a High School History and Finance teacher at Bangor High. He is also a driving instructor (God love him!)

Stephen Riitano, Bangor High School History Teacher
Stephen Riitano, Bangor High School History Teacher

I first met Riitano when he was my son's Middle School social studies teacher at the James F. Doughty School. His enthusiasm, kindness, and immense capacity for patience and empathy made him an instant favorite among all of the middle school kids. Riitano would show up to school, every day, in a shirt and tie, inspiring middle school boys to put in the extra effort to take pride in their appearance (something that anyone with Middle School boys understands can be a challenge!) Always going the extra mile, he often checks in on students to make sure they aren't struggling, and if they are, he always finds a way to get them back on track. Involved in fundraising projects and student activities, his most notable project of late has been the effort to find the 5th Street School time capsule. I am grateful for his endless energy, his positive attitude and for the care he has for his students.

We asked you which teachers, in your life, made a difference. There are some cool teachers on this list. Thanks for honoring them with us this week.

Melanie Makin Cori, I can't remember whether you got to have Mr. Glueck? Besides an awesome interest in the sciences (like earthquake tracking and the space program) we also loved how he had his pickled appendix in a jar and would hang it on the whiteboard around Christmas every year.
Bob Hatch Ron Stanko, from GSA, was the coolest teacher I've had. He taught biology, chemistry, physical science, etc. He really made the classes enjoyable. Really nice guy!
Megan Bridges Is it bad that I don't remember any of the teachers being "cool"? There were some amazing teachers out there but more because they were enthusiastic, engaging, and challenging. Not cool.
Greg Miller J Stew probably knows Gifford Stevens. His "outdoor and life survival" English class was my favorite at Hampden. Andy Frace was another teacher that made a difference in my life and even though I did have him as a teacher in 8th grade, it was his alternative education program he started in Orono that got my son to graduation. RIP Frace, you are certainly missed.
Suzette Johnston Mrs. Karen Crosson Larson Clarida!!!!! In high school. Her Spanish class was the best, she was so fun! I think she once did cartwheels down the hallway for our class! Definitely made me want to keep coming back to Spanish class. Elementary school 4th grade was Mrs. Nancy Nahra Bethany Sproul. She was an amazing fun teacher.
Julianne Shaw Andy Frace! He passed away too soon. God bless his soul. He made every student feel like a somebody. He could connect with just about every kid. Not every teacher can do that but he could. As a teacher myself, I can tell you that academics are important but what's more important is that every student who walks in our classroom feels like a somebody. He did that. Rest in peace.
Abel Gleason Mr. Smith at Fairmount, who taught fifth grade, was not quintessentially cool in the Steve McQueen-sense of the word. But he WAS one of the finalists for the spot Christa McCauliffe was eventually (and fatefully) awarded on the Challenger. And THAT was quintessentially COOL.
Chad Houp My first-grade teacher looked like Linda Carter, the actress who played Wonder Woman on the TV series that was on the air back then. My dad never missed a parent-teacher conference!
Craig Florey Mr. Harlow Floyd - John Bapst High School
Melissa Avery Burns Mr. Hammel.... social studies teacher at Brewer Junior High.
Angela Faulkner Tom Sheehan taught Sciences in high school. He was cool.
Cindy Campbell Mr. Wardwell - Brewer HS Sociology Teacher. Friday was music appreciation day. We picked a different album (vinyl) each week, discussed the meaning of many of the lyrics and their social implications, then ate snacks while we listened to the album.
Estin Harriman Florence Crockett from the now-defunct Orland Consolidated School used to take kids on a yearly whale watch.
Brian Bent There’s Miss Goodwin, then there’s Mrs. Fletcher, then there’s Mrs. Hewett, Mrs. Blood, Mrs. Greenlaw, and on and on. I loved them all. It would be hard to choose.
Kip Nelson Charlie Reed, 5th grade Mary Snow school Crew cut, energetic, caring, educator.
Holly Bishop-Murphy My 2nd-grade teacher, Lillian Eaton, was the best!!! She knew I had a bad home life and would take me to her camp on weekends to enjoy life and have no worries.
Dan Bean Cool teacher.... my Orono high school Art teacher. Mrs. Taylor. Allowed me to free spirit my artwork which I credit her and all the teachers that have allowed me to see potential in all things I do. With their teachings, I can create and make art pieces with confidence. At a young age, we may not see what vision they see in us... but now looking back on it. I’m so thankful for the time they all have put in. My vision is clear because of them.

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