USM Alumna Receives Presidential Award for Teachers

2021 Maine Teacher of the Year and USM Alum, Cindy Soule smiles for the camera.

Cindy Soule ’00 has received the nation’s highest honor for science and math teachers.

Soule, who works for the Gerald E. Talbot School in Portland, is one of only 104 recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) for the 2020 award cycle. She is one of just two teachers from Maine to receive the award.

Soule has previously been named Maine Teacher of the Year for 2021 and Cumberland County Teacher of the Year in 2020. She is a graduate of USM’s Extended Teacher Education Program (ETEP).

“At USM, when I was a graduate student, I loved being part of a community of learners. I loved being able to be in a cohort of people who came together to share their ideas,” Soule said. “That practice has been something that really stuck with me. It really taught me to think outside of ‘This is the one way we’re going to do things.’”

Soule was a classroom teacher for 20 years before recently becoming a literacy instructional coach focused on the integration of content literacy for grades 3-5. What makes her teaching so special? Her high expectations, her unwavering belief in every student, and her commitment to making learning equitable.

“In my path to find answers, I really started to see the power tapping into the natural world, to taking my students outside, to sitting and listening and looking and writing and creating visual models and figuring out the mysteries of the natural world,” she said. “Sometimes I have to sit there and I have to tell myself, ‘Do not say the answer. Do not tell them that this is erosion. They have to figure that out.’ So they have their questions and I’m like a little tour guide. I’m like, ‘OK, so you have this question, how are we going to find our answer?’”

Soule credits not only USM for helping her to become the educator she wanted to be, but she also credits mentor teachers, colleagues, and her own 6th grade science teacher Gordon Corbett, who helped her develop her confidence and love of learning.

“When you can be a teacher, you can inspire anyone to. . . believe in themselves, to have a dream and achieve it,” she said. “That’s a way we are agents of change, teachers are agents of change. And he exemplified that.”

Nominees for the Presidential Awards must complete a rigorous application demonstrating deep content knowledge and an ability to adapt to a broad range of learners and teaching environments.

Soule will be honored at a virtual ceremony on Feb. 24.

Deer Isle teacher Mickie Flores was the other Maine recipient of the award.