Wesley Elementary School is a grades K-8 school in Wesley, Maine, located on the Airline Road, 30 miles from Machias and 30 miles from Calais, Wesley in the heart of the Maine woods. They currently have seven students in grades k-4 who are taught by an incredible lead teacher and a stellar educational technician.
When asked what makes his school amazing, Principal Kenny Johnson easily stated, “The community. This community supports everything that this school needs. For example, when we couldn’t find a music teacher, the community stepped up and the local pastor’s wife was contracted for that position. The art teacher is also the cook and serves lunch daily as. In addition to this, she also co-directs the after-school program. Another community member wanted to share his love of music with the students by offering lessons on different instruments that the students wouldn’t normally have access to.”
Mr. Johnson also noted the small numbers allow for students to have their own personalized learning plan.
The 8th grade graduation is a whole town pot-luck celebration. They truly honor their students moving on to the high school level. Well known as being the “heart” of the community, Wesley Elementary houses the community suppers and events as well. Years ago, the school wrote a grant and was able to get the Peruvian group, “Inca swazi,” to teach the students about Incan history and dance. The group was so intrigued by this fabulous community, they put on a traditional Incan meal and performance for the entire community. The students were the stars of the night!
I had the chance to speak to most of the students in the school during my visit. I asked them what made their school amazing and they all had the opportunity to share:
- “I love to read and they taught me how to read. This is my favorite place!”
- “I love to learn how to learn and then use my iPad to help me learn more!”
- “We have lots of animals that visit the school: coyotes, rabbits, birds, and squirrels. We even had a shrew come into our classroom.”
- “I really like gym. We play all kinds of games and get to move a lot.”
- “We use our iPads and play games to help us learn strategy.”
All of the field trips and extracurricular activities are taken and experienced as a whole school. Where the population is so small, the school has had the opportunity to go on trips such as to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on the CAT, go on a whale-watching adventure, and take an overnight field trip to Augusta where they had the chance to go in to the Governor’s Office and sit in his chair.
They also had the opportunity to bring in a residential artist and build a life-size moose with a real moose skull (thanks to being located so close to the Airline Road and courtesy of the local game warden). The moose was built 11 years ago, and still proudly stands next to the school.
This school is an amazing place, but don’t let the small population fool you. This allows for proficiency-based learning to have been taking place for many years. According to Educational Technician, Ginny Sawick, “We have to personalize. There are no traditional ‘grades’ here. We teach so the students learn. They don’t move on until they master the standards.”
Wesley Elementary School, 13 Whining Pines Drive, Wesley, ME 04686 (207)255-3263
Principal Kenneth Johnson