News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 17, 2018
Castine teacher recognized for teaching excellence

Honored for math and science teaching excellence

Adams School teacher Bill McWeeny was honored as a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The finalists were honored at a banquet on May 11.

Photo courtesy of Todd Nelson

by Monique Labbe

Adams School fifth and sixth grade math and science teacher Bill McWeeny was recently named a finalist for the Maine Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The finalists were celebrated at a banquet at the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell on May 11.

McWeeny has been working toward this award for the last five years, he said, and even applied for it three years ago. He was not named a finalist at that time, but his second application, submitted last May, earned him a spot among other Maine math and science teachers as a finalist.

“I had to get three references, pick a unit that coordinates with the [educational] standards from the state, and submit a 45-minute video of me teaching in the classroom,” said McWeeny. “It had to be recorded all in one shot, without any takes or anything.”

McWeeny has been a teacher for 48 years, and during that time he has earned awards for Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year in Massachusetts and a national Middle School Teacher of the Year award. While the awards have been validating, he said, it is the connections he has made with other teachers through those awards that have been most notable.

“Those other teachers are dynamite,” said McWeeny. “I’ve learned so much from the people that I have met.”

McWeeny said he has also learned how to find a balance between the ever-changing dynamics of technology in the classroom and staying true to old fashioned, hands on math and science projects.

“I’m a pretty easy going guy, I have an idea of what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes, but I’ve also been able to incorporate those changes to my classroom.”

McWeeny has collected a slew of highlights over his teaching career, but one of them was a field trip he took with the Calvineers to study Right Whales socializing with each other.

“We spent hours on the water watching them interact with each other, it was incredible,” he said.

He has also taken students on trips to Belize, California and the Virgin Islands, as well as a trip last year with the Calvineers to Halifax. The group also takes a trip to the Boston Aquarium each year to run a Right Whale Festival.

With nearly five decades of teaching under his belt, McWeeny said that while retirement is on the radar, he is not ready to hand over his chalk just yet.

“I’d love to keep going forever, but I also want to hand over the reins at some point, to someone younger maybe who can bring in new things,” he said.

While the finalists for the award have been announced, McWeeny said it could be some time before the winner is, as the winners from the previous two years have yet to be announced. The award is bestowed by the United States government for kindergarten through grade 12 math and science teaching.

“I guess now we just wait,” said McWeeny.