Troy A. Howard Middle School is located just off of route one in Belfast, Maine. It houses 375 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from several small towns in the area. The property consists of 60 acres of beautifully groomed gardens, cross country trails, and open space for all to enjoy. As you walk into the school you get the feeling of walking on Main Street back in time with the many pillars and pieces of artwork from different eras throughout the years.
When asked, “What makes your school great?” The Principal, Kimberly Buckheit, and Assistant Principal, Bruce Bailey, state that they have an incredible arts program which includes band, chorus, PE, visual art, and one of the few middle schools in the state that offers a performing arts class, just to name a few. This is in addition to the three “learning academies” that the students are placed in before entering sixth grade. The three academies are: Ecology, Innovation, and International. Each of the three academies is designed to best meet the students’ individual learning styles. The classes are designed to provide maximize learning and “make learning real for the students. For example, the Ecology Academy is in charge of the school gardens and greenhouse which provides almost all of the school’s vegetables on the salad bar offered to the students daily. “No student will be hungry,” said Mrs. Buckheit, “We will send home vegetables at night with students so they can help feed their family.”
The credit of Troy A. Howard Middle School’ success is two-fold: Mrs. Buckheit’s hard work and dedication, as well as a student-centered staff have helped to move from a low-performance school to one that is a role model for other middle schools in the country. “As the 2013 Maine Middle Level Principal of the Year, I have the opportunity to network with other great principals from across the country. I get ideas from them and bring them back to my school. “She also notes that she trusts her staff and encourages taking learning out of the classroom. The entire school is a learning environment. Learning takes place in and outside of the building – “This only helps the students be successful.”
I spoke with the Performing Arts class about what makes their school great. The entire class began to talk about what makes their school stand out, “We have a lot of neat clubs like the Garden Club, Art Club, Golf Club, and Culinary Arts Club.” They noted that the three academies help them learn as well. “We get to learn in a way that works for us.”
They were energetic to recognize that they have “all kinds of sports teams. We are competitive - like with the Reindeer Games, ” (Similar to a Winter Carnival, Reindeer Games is a series of games that the three academies play against each other and the winning academy houses the Reindeer Games Trophy for the year.)
When asked about their principal and assistant principal the kids said, “Mrs. Buckheit is pretty great because she won ‘Principal of the Year!” They also noted that she helps them solve problems and they love the fact that she rewards positive behavior by giving them additional movement breaks outside during the day. “This helps us learn.”
As for Assistant Principal, Bruce Bailey, “Mr. Bailey is really funny and he listens to kids. He treats us like young adults.”
Should you ever have the opportunity to visit this very unique Middle School, I highly encourage you to do so!
Howard (Troy A) Middle School
173 Lincolnville Ave
Belfast, ME 04915
Principal: Kimberly Buckheit
Asst. Principal: Bruce Bailey