The Maine Association of School Psychologists (MASP) has selected two alumnae of the School Psychology graduate program at the University of Southern Maine for its annual School Psychologist of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards.
Lisa Backman, a school psychologist at Manchester Elementary School in Windham and a 21-year veteran of the profession, has been named the 2020 MASP School Psychologist of the Year.
Lisa Howe, a school psychologist in the Gorham School Department and a 22-year veteran, received MASP’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Late-’90s graduate school classmates at USM and now close colleagues, Backman and Howe say the MASP honors are welcome confirmation of their commitment to children and their families.
“The recognition is overwhelming,” Backman said. “I am intrinsically motivated to assist a parent or educator understand a child better and help make learning a little easier for my students. Personally, this award reflects my passion for the profession. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged for the great care I devote to it.”
“It was a humbling and unexpected honor, and I consider it a shared honor,” Howe said. “For me, it’s an opportunity to celebrate and give credit and gratitude to those who nominated me, as well as my professors at USM and the supervising psychologists who have mentored, trained, supported, and consulted with me over the years.”
Backman and Howe each received several nominations from school leaders and colleagues for the MASP awards.
Danielle Donnini, principal of Manchester Elementary School, cited Backman’s strong dedication to students, families, and teachers, as well as her “tireless work ethic” and commitment to the “social-emotional needs” of students.
“When you approach Lisa with a challenge, you know her approach will be student-focused, ethical, resourced, and collaborative,” Donnini said. “We are very fortunate to have her in the school psychology profession in our public schools.”
Kathy Hamblen, director of special services in the Gorham School Department, lauded Howe’s leadership in implementing initiatives for the district, including social-emotional learning committees, a comprehensive K–12 assessment system, and resources for how to best meet the needs of students with learning challenges.
“Anything Lisa does, she shares with her colleagues without looking for credit or kudos,” Hamblen said. “She just very much believes that in sharing her knowledge with others, she will also gain valuable knowledge back from them and, I'm sure, her colleagues across Maine would agree.”
In presenting the awards in a virtual ceremony, Ruth Crowell, president of MASP, praised both honorees for their service to students and families, their schools, and the profession.
When schools statewide shifted to remote learning in spring 2020, “Lisa Backman stepped up, meeting multiple times a week with the Maine Department of Education and with MASP leadership in developing resources and trainings for shifting to the new digital school format,” Crowell said.
“Lisa Howe has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to growth in schools by spearheading several projects over the years,” Crowell continued. “She also has volunteered many hours of her time in numerous positions with MASP, including participation at the committee level as well as serving as secretary of the organization.”
Crowell also thanked Backman and Howe for their kindness and compassion with students and families, for being models of professionalism and expertise, and for the leadership they have given their colleagues throughout their careers.
As the state's nominee, Backman is now in the running to be named National School Psychologist of the Year by the National Association of School Psychologists.