Longtime Houlton teacher wins Maine Special Education Teacher of the Year

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:40 AM EDT
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HOULTON, Maine (WAGM) - A longtime teacher at Houlton High School was named the Maine Special Education Teacher of the Year. News Source 8′s Isaac Potter caught up with Chris Lee and has the story.

Chris Lee is a popular face around the halls at Houlton Middle/High School. Now she can add the State Special Education Teacher of the Year to her resume. The award came as a surprise to her.

Chris Lee, Special Education Teacher at Houlton Middle/High School, says “About a month ago, I was informed that I was chosen Aroostook County Special Ed Teacher of the Year, and when they did the award ceremony at the school board meeting. Dr. Flacke said that would go onto to the state level, and I thought “Noooo.” And so I got an email that I think was two Fridays ago that said that I had won the award. And about the same time Dr. Flacke had tried to call me so she said to check your email but you don’t have to call me back. I was like in shock, I like didn’t tell anybody for about two days, because I kept thinking that they were going to tell me it was a mistake.”

Lee has spent 44 years working for the RSU 29 school district as an Ed Tech, Title One Tutor, and a Special Education Teacher. She says her focus has been teaching struggling readers as a Wilson Reading instructor. She says winning the award is very humbling to her.

Chris Lee: “It’s kind of surreal, because like I said I come to work and I do my job and you don’t really think about. You know the impact that you are making on your students, but you don’t know the impact that you might be making on other adults that are either your supervisors, or co workers, we typically don’t tell each other those things.”

Lee mentions what makes it special working with the students is implementing the Wilson reading system with students that are becoming confident and competent readers.

Chris Lee: “It opens so many doors for them that were not available before like regular classroom instruction. Like being able to read like everybody else so as I have hanging in my classroom, my favorite quote by Frederick Douglas. Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. And this is how I truly feel about every student’s right to be able to read.”

Even after 44 years in the classroom, she says the students are what keeps her coming back each year.

Chris Lee: “I have a little boy that is in sixth grade, that everytime I have mentioned retiring. He said Mrs. Lee if you retire who is going to teach me to read then. I told Dr. Flacke how do you walk out?”

While receiving the award is special, the real award for her is working with her students each and every day.. Isaac Potter News Source 8.