The University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Alumni Association recently honored two alumni with awards of achievement—the Educator of the Year Award and Distinguished Educator Award—at the University’s Second Annual Alumni Hour on Saturday, Oct. 7 during Homecoming 2017: Friends & Family Weekend.
With nearly 40 years of experience in the teaching profession, alumna Judith L. Kierstead Atcheson was recognized for her lifelong achievements in education. She received the Educator of the Year Award, which is presented to an alumnus/alumna who has received ongoing recognition as an outstanding educator. The recipient may also have shown active or supportive involvement with the Alumni Association, support of the University, a successful career that reflects well on the University, and outstanding leadership qualities.
The Distinguished Alumni Award was given posthumously to alumna Jeanie McGowan. This award is given to an alumnus/alumna who has made long-term contributions to the Alumni Association or the University, or who has received professional recognition that has reflected positively on the University.
Judith L. Kierstead Atcheson graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1975 as salutatorian of her class. She continued on to UMPI and graduated in 1979 as valedictorian with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science and an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. She attended the University of Maine at Machias from 1980-1982 to complete her Elementary Methodology Coursework and earn her Teacher Certification. Atcheson completed the National Teacher Examination in 1982, finishing in the 99% ranking for Professional Education.
Atcheson has served since 1979 as an elementary teacher, first for Maine School Administrative District 19 and later for MSAD 1. She has served in many staff and curriculum development roles at MSAD 1–including President of the Presque Isle Teacher’s Association, contributor to the MSAD 1 Teacher Evaluation Committee, chair of the MSAD 1 ELA Curriculum Committee, and member of the MSAD 1 Science Curriculum Committee–and is still an active member of the MSAD 1 Strategic Planning Committee. Atcheson also has been involved with the Maine Education Assessment Tests, Grade Level Expectations State of Maine Panel, and many other roles. She was a part of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and State of Maine Solid Foundations Conference in 1999.
A standout achievement has been her work published in the book Teachers Engaged in Research: Inquiry into Mathematics Classrooms in Grades 3-5, a 2006 National Council of Teachers in Mathematics publication. She was one of 20 authors featured in the book. Atcheson discussed her reasoning behind elementary mathematics in Chapter 5: “Exploring Multiplicative Reasoning.”
Atcheson has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being named a State Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching in 2002 and the recipient of the Edward G. Begle Grant for Classroom-based Research by the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics; this was a cooperative research project she completed with then-UMPI faculty member Dr. Zhijun Wu. She is also the recipient of several MBNA Excellence in Education Grants, awarded between 1997 and 2005, and a Maine SEED for Education Grant.
Atcheson is a member of the Aroostook Retired Teachers Association and a career-long member of the MSAD 1 Teachers Association, Maine Education Association, and National Education Association. She is also a past member of Delta Kappa Gamma, served as a student advisor for the Northern Lights Youth Choir for 10 years, and has been a volunteer at her local church for more than 30 years. She and her husband Ken Atcheson reside in Presque Isle.
Jeanie McGowan was raised in Presque Isle and attended UMPI during the 1970’s but initially did not finish her studies. She developed excellent writing skills, an artistic ability, and a strong interest in science. She came back to UMPI during the late 1980’s to continue her studies and completed her degree by the late 1990’s.
She was a key contributor during the establishment of the Northern Maine Museum of Science (NMMS) and is responsible for many of the displays there. She worked for many years with UMPI Professor of Geology Kevin McCartney on projects associated with the NMMS, the solar system model—for which she painted all the smaller objects and Saturn, the collections, the nature trail at UMPI—including designing the brochure and leading tours on the trail, and various NASA-related educational grants and projects.
She worked at UMPI for four years by helping many people both at the University and throughout the community with assistance in writing grants, and implementing efforts like the Traveling Trunks program for local school children. She worked on writing and administering grants for multiple NASA projects and also initiated the annual UMPI Planet Head Day, which has become the primary fundraiser for the local organization Caring Area Neighbors for Cancer Education and Recovery (C-A-N-C-E-R) and has raised more than $100,000 for the organization in the last 10 years. In 2005, McGowan became part of the educational outreach for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto.
McGowan later became the half-time director of the Nylander Museum of Natural History, located in Caribou. She participated in extensive work with many groups of local indigenous bands. She also worked at the Francis Malcolm Science Center in Easton prior to retirement. McCartney, a close friend, said that most of the work she accomplished in The County throughout the years was done as a volunteer.
According to the nomination letter, written by her friend, Cheryl Ann Kittredge: “For the entire time that I knew Jeanie, since 1996, she worked generously and tirelessly to help and support her family, her friends, UMPI activities and resources, the educational and cultural resources in the surrounding communities, and the indigenous people of local bands.”