OUR TEAM

Rural Aspirations began as an idea in the winter, 2011. A group of veteran educators got together to talk about how they could positively impact rural Maine schools. In 2013, after many years of designing programs and teaching in rural Maine communities, we began consulting with schools to develop and enrich curriculum in our most rural communities. We are now offering consultation services to a variety of schools interested in expanding educational opportunities and integrating community resources. Collectively, we have over 70 years of administrative, classroom and program design experience.

STAFF

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Korah Soll

Founding Director & Ed. Design Specialist

korah@ruralaspirations.org

Korah is originally from a small town in Maine and has always valued the "sense of place" often fostered in small, rural communities.  She designed and directed alternative education programs from 1999 to 2014. These program models are in operation at Mt. View High School, Five Town CSD, and Sumner Memorial High School. Korah's work has focused on providing learning opportunities within a public school framework conducive to improving motivation, highlighting relevancy and increasing academic performance.  Her programs have guided many students toward becoming leaders and strong community members.  Korah was a 2010 recipient of the Maine Department of Education Commissioner's Award for her work with at-risk students.  She was also a semi-finalist for the Hancock County Teacher of the Year.  Korah received a B.S. Environmental Education from Unity College and an M.Ed. Leadership from UMAINE.  She has been working with Rural Aspirations to build programming in schools since 2014.

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Val Peacock

Education Design Specialist

val@ruralaspirations.org

Valerie Peacock’s first experiences in education were through the College of the Atlantic Summer Field Studies (SFS) for Children. SFS opened her eyes to a new way of teaching - outside, hands-on, relational, place-based.  After 5 summers, she was inspired to get her teaching certificate. She started teaching biology at Sumner Memorial High School in 2006. She immediately began to adapt and build curriculum and programming that connected students to the deep and real connections they had to their physical and economic place She quickly felt the constraints of the traditional school system and had had the amazing opportunity to create an alternative program.  In 2011, she worked with a team to design and implement the Sumner Liberal Arts Pathways program where students identified goals/passions and designed learning plans tailored to their needs. She has been working with RAP since 2013.

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Sara King

Maine Forest Collaborative Coordinator

sara@ruralaspirations.org

Sara King graduated from Salve Regina University with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education in 2013. Throughout college she spent summers working as a trip leader for Nature's Classroom guiding teens on kayaking and camping expeditions. She went on to teach second grade at a small rural school creating and developing her own curriculum, scope, and sequence for her students in all subject areas. During that time she received her a Maine Recreational and Sea Kayak Guide License and in the summers, she began guiding sea kayaking, paddleboard, and canoe trips for LL Bean. After teaching for three years, she took some time off to travel to Nepal, receive her Registered Yoga Instructor Certification (RYT 200), trek in the Himalayas, and WWOOF at a farm. Upon returning, she received training as a Children's Yoga Instructor and then went on to work for UMaine Cooperative Extension as a 4-H Youth Development Professional helping youth to learn about and connect to their sparks and interests in a hands-on meaningful way, facilitate learning of life skills, and connect them to the larger community. Sara's love of the outdoors and passion for connecting youth to natural resources sparked her to return to graduate school at UMaine Farmington. She will graduate in the spring of 2023 with a M.Ed in Educational Leadership with a Nature-Based Education concentration.

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Dawna Blackstone

RAP Design Specialist - Piscataquis/Somerset Focus

dawna@ruralaspirations.org

Dawna grew up in a small Maine town spending her time outside playing, swimming, biking or hiking. She gained her love of nature and her appreciation for our natural resources from her Game Warden father. For over 20 years, working with the Greenville School Department and at the Appalachian Mountain Club, Dawna has taught Health, Environmental, Outdoor and Physical Education, with a priority of getting students outside and working with teachers to facilitate learning in outdoor spaces. In 2014, Dawna was awarded the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District Environmental Educator of the Year Award. For the past 18 years, she has coached an after-school Cross-Country Ski Program with help from Maine Winter Sports Center/Outdoor Sports Institute and Natural Resource Education Center (NREC) and helped coach a Greenville State Championship Girls Basketball team. Dawna received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and her Master’s of Health Education from Southern Illinois University. She has been involved with Rural Aspirations since 2018.

BOARD MEMBERS

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Principal, Bucksport Middle School

Todd West

Todd West is currently the principal at Bucksport Middle School, where he is helping the school place-based learning opportunities and develop trauma-informed classrooms.  Previously, he served as the principal of Deer Isle-Stonington High School from 2007-2017.  During that time, the school saw dramatic increases in its graduation rate, from a state worst 57% in 2009 to over 90% from 2012-2017.  The school also launched an ambitious initiative to personalize learning for all students and ensure that each student graduates prepared for college and modern, fulfilling careers through the creation of a Marine Studies Pathway as well as an Arts Pathway.

 

Todd holds a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine.  He resides in Orland with his very patient wife and very curious 6th grade daughter.f

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Educational Consultant/School Coach

Linda Bowe

Linda Bowe is currently a mid-coast education consultant and school coach. She has worked in a variety of roles: special education teacher & consultant, elementary school principal, UMaine grad instructor. She has also served as a school leadership facilitator for the Maine Development Foundation; the Mitchell Institute; Great Maine Schools Project (now Great Schools Partnership); the Maine Department of Education; and the Hurricane Island Foundation. Her focus is to help schools develop the culture and leadership capacity to improve teaching and learning practices.

Linda earned both M.Ed. and Ed D. degrees in Educational Leadership at the University of Maine, with a special interest in the development of teacher leadership in schools. She is newly involved in the Rural Aspirations Project and is very excited about the opportunities it presents for students and teachers across rural Maine. 

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Teacher, Troy Howard Middle School

Caitlin Hutt

Caitlin Hutt has over 15 years of teaching experience in rural, central Maine schools. She began teaching 7th and 8th grade students in Pittsfield, Maine after graduating from UMaine Farmington with a B.S. in Elementary Education in 2005. From the very beginning of her teaching career, Caitlin realized that providing students with authentic, experiential learning opportunities could transform their learning. Planning ways for students to take their learning and knowledge beyond the bounds of the classroom walls, and out into the community became a foundational piece of Caitlin’s designed units of study. In 2011, Caitlin earned a Master’s of Education in an individualized program focused on middle level education from UMaine Orono. Much of this work focused on designing integrated, project based, community focused curriculum. Creating connections between students, their school, and their communities has long been, and continues to be the driving force behind Caitlin’s work.  Caitlin is the former Maine Forest Collaborative Coordinator, and is now back in the classroom teaching 8th grade Social Studies at Troy Howard Middle School.

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Special Education Teacher

Eric Kormann

Eric Kormann currently resides in rural Waldo County and has worked as a Special Education teacher, Science teacher and in various leadership roles in both RSU #3 and the Five Town CSD for the past 17 years.  Eric believes strongly in honoring the learner and has a great knack for developing strong relationships with students, staff, and parents.  He is continuously working to improve student experiences in a project-based, community-based behavioral program within the Five Town CSD, Rising Tide.  He is dedicated to offering programming that meets the needs of diverse learners in a creative and collaborative way.  He received his undergraduate degree from Unity College and an M.Ed. Leadership degree from UMAINE.