Education connection: Student teacher reunites with elementary school principal at UMaine

Back in 2006 and 2007, Maria Low was in kindergarten at Capri Street School in Brewer, Maine.

Joan Staffiere was the school’s principal.

Low is now a college senior majoring in elementary education at the University of Maine, where Staffiere — who retired from a distinguished career as a public school teacher and administrator in 2008 — is now an adjunct instructor and student teaching supervisor.

The pair recently reconnected when Low signed up for the student teaching seminar course taught by Staffiere this semester.

“I love working with kids,” says Low, who will graduate in May after completing her 15-week student teaching internship. “Also, my mom is a teacher, which inspired me to want to go into education.”

Low says her mom connected the dots that Staffiere was once her elementary school principal.

“My mom actually went back to school to become a teacher and she graduated from UMaine not that long ago, in 2013,” Low says. “I asked about her student teaching supervisor, because I thought maybe we would have the same one. And she said, ‘No, but you know Joan was your principal, right?’”

Low and her mom dug through some old pictures and yearbooks until they found her kindergarten class photo, which includes Staffiere’s school portrait at the top of the page.

Maria Low and Joan Staffiere school photos from 2006-2007.

Although Capri Street School closed in 2012 and has since been torn down, Low has fond memories of going to school there.

“I remember my teachers. I also remember when I was in kindergarten, we did a musical and we took dance,” she says.

Staffiere recalls that she wrote a grant for the dance classes. She also says that each class put on its own musical, and that as principal she was the narrator.

“The year you were in kindergarten, you might remember that I wore a hat with lemons on it,” Staffiere says.

“We still have pictures of that!” says Low.

Staffiere, who was recognized with a Teaching Excellence Award from the UMaine College of Education and Human Development in 2015, says Low is the fourth former student from her time as a public-school educator to take her student teaching seminar.

“It’s wonderful to see all of my students become teachers,” says Staffiere. “I love seeing them go into the field, gain that experience and confidence in their teaching, and then get their first full-time jobs in schools.”

Student teaching supervisors oversee preservice teachers, offering mentoring, coaching and other support, including evaluation of their performance in the classroom. At UMaine, the student teaching seminars meet every other week or so throughout a semester to allow student teachers who are in the field to examine and reflect on their teaching and learning, apply the skills and knowledge gained from their previous classes and field experiences, and to develop and finalize their teacher candidacy portfolios.

Low says the seminar course has been the culmination of her four years at UMaine, where field experiences and classroom observations are incorporated into the curriculum for teacher education majors from a student’s freshman year.

A member of the UMaine women’s soccer team, Low says that during college she’s learned a lot about herself outside of the classroom as well.

“I’ve gained so much in terms of leadership, communication and working with others,” she says. “The university has really helped me grow and find my passion.”

Contact: Casey Kelly,