The What School Could Be Podcast

The What School Could Be Podcast

113. Dorothy Maxwell: Milken Awardee, Maine's Teacher of the Year, 50 Plus Years in Education

September 17, 2023

Today my guest is Dorothy Maxwell, an educator in face-to-face and online teaching and learning for more than 50 years. She holds a bachelor's degree in Business Education from the University of Maine, a Master’s Degree in Education and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine. She has served as President of the National Business Education Association, the Eastern Business Education Association, the New England Business Education Association, and the Business Education Association of Maine. Dorothy was the 1994 Maine Teacher of the Year and has been recognized by the Milken Family Foundation with its National Educator Award. Moreover, she received the National Secondary Teacher of the Year Award from the National Business Education Association. The primary reason why I wanted Dorothy on this podcast is that she is the Vice Chair of the Board, a site coordinator and a teacher for a remarkable organization called Virtual High School Learning, which has been around more than 20 years. VHS Learning, a nonprofit organization, provides supplemental online classes to high schools and students. It offers schools a way to expand their catalogs without incurring the full cost of a class for which there may be limited demand. That in turn has helped many schools offer the full suite of classes that students might desire, in spite of budgetary pressures. It’s been a valuable way for many institutions to expand their course catalogs and dip their toes into online learning. Back in 2015, after the debut of the acclaimed film, "Most Likely to Succeed," the filmʻs producer, Ted Dintersmith, with his co-author, Tony Wagner, wrote the book by the same name. In the hardcover education, on page 204 and 205, Ted and Tony wrote about VHS Learning, citing it as an exemplar of both online learning and education reimagined. 

On these two pages Ted and Tony noted that Tedʻs daughter, Sterling Dintersmith, took one of VHS Learningʻs courses while she was in high school. I contacted Sterling and asked her to share her thoughts about her experiences in the history course she took. Here is what Sterling said. 

“About a decade ago I took a history course at VHS about the early European explorers of North America. Each week we would have a different discussion question that each student would answer in a forum. Then, we would each respond to each other's writings. We got really into it! I can still remember logging in multiple times per day to check what people were saying and to engage in lengthy debates on the different topics. I ended up spending way more time and energy in the course than was required because I just enjoyed engaging with my peers and hearing so many different perspectives. Plus, the teacher made sure to use the study of history to highlight and investigate themes that are relevant to society today and to our personal lives. Therefore, we all felt like what we were learning mattered and was relevant. We bought into the class and we poured ourselves into the class.“ Editing for this episode is provided by Evan Kurohara. Our theme music is provided by master pianist, Michael Sloan.