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Updated: May 13, 2024 On the record

On the Record: The leader of Educate Maine champions career readiness

Photo / Jim Neuger Jason Judd, executive director of Educate Maine, photographed at the Portland Arts and Technology High School.

Jason Judd, a former teacher, college and career counselor, director of academic studies and academic dean at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, joined Educate Maine in 2016 as the Project>Login program director and was named executive director in 2019. Mainebiz caught up with him to find out more about the Portland-based nonprofit with a statewide reach.

Mainebiz: How does your teaching background inform your work at Educate Maine?

Jason Judd: My background as a teacher is what has made me so passionate about supporting students across Maine to make sure they are well-prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce. I constantly reflect on my experiences working with students as we design programs, develop partnerships and advocate for education investment.

MB: What does Educate Maine do?

JJ: Educate Maine is about championing career readiness by increasing the educational attainment of Maine people. We want all Maine people to reach their greatest educational and economic potential.

We facilitate a range of educator-focused programs like the Maine Teacher of the Year, Education Leaders Experience and the Teach Maine Center, as well as programs focused on student college and career readiness like Project>Login, Maine Career Catalyst and the Maine Mobile Biolab.

MB How is running a nonprofit like running a business?

JJ: Leading a nonprofit is much like running a business. It takes strong financial acumen, a great team of employees, a focus on the customer — in our case students and educators — and constant innovation.

MB: And how is it different?

JJ: Nonprofits are highly collaborative, rather than competitive. With limited resources, nonprofits come together to increase impact. Developing partnerships is foundational for any nonprofit.

MB What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in Maine’s educator workforce?

JJ: Our greatest strength is that Maine has thousands of caring and committed educators working in our schools. Maine educators have 15 years of teaching experience on average and 45% of educators have a master’s degree.

But there is a challenge: There are not enough qualified educators applying for openings in our schools. Maine needs to develop new pathways into teaching in order to expand and diversify the teaching profession. And we need, as a state, to support our teachers and seek new ways to recruit, retain and reward these dedicated educators.

MB: What are the next steps for Educate Maine’s Teach Maine Center?

JJ: Educate Maine will continue to host focus groups and hold stakeholder meetings to hear directly from educators in various counties to inform the programming of the Teach Maine Center. We will partner with two school districts for a pilot focused on local strategies to address educator recruitment and retention. Soon, we will release a report providing baseline data on Maine’s teacher workforce.

MB: Could you offer a progress report on the Biolab, and how will you measure its success?

JJ: The Maine Mobile Biolab has now visited eight middle schools over the last two months from Aroostook County to York County, to inspire students about life sciences. The lab, and two educators who travel with it, will continue visiting middle schools through June and then offer summer programming in partnership with the Challenger Learning Center of Maine in Bangor and in Lewiston/Auburn.

Success for the Biolab is measured by the number of underserved students participating in the programming, the likelihood of those students to pursue STEM careers, and those students’ awareness of college and life sciences career opportunities available in Maine.

MB: What education innovations at district or school level in Maine are you excited about?

JJ: Maine schools are full of educational innovations. I encourage everyone to partner with local schools and learn more about the great work that is happening.

Right now, I am particularly excited about the career and technical education and makerspace project at St. George School in Tenants Harbor, where students grades K-8 will have access to hands-on education thanks to recent investments in the new program.

MB: What is the state of financial literacy in Maine?

JJ: Financial literacy was added to the social studies standards of the Maine Learning Results, the document that outlines what students should know, understand and be able to explain from kindergarten to high school.

Many educators and schools participate in the Maine Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and attend their annual conference to learn best practices to teach this really important life skill. In addition, we partner closely with Junior Achievement of Maine, who works with many schools statewide on financial literacy topics.

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