by April Mulherin, UMF Associate Director for Media Relations
This story was a press release by the UMF Media Relations Department.
(Left to right) Maggie Pomerleau, UMF senior majoring in secondary education, as she worked in the classroom with Denise Mochamer, her mentor teacher from Mt. Blue Middle School, prior to remote learning directive due to COVID-19.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
FARMINGTON, ME (April 28, 2020)—University of Maine at Farmington graduating senior Maggie Pomerleau, from Sidney, was excited about student teaching and her spring semester at UMF. Things changed when in March, University of Maine System campuses and K-12 schools throughout the state transitioned all in-class instruction to remote learning, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
With a major in Secondary Education, and a concentration in English, she was in the midst of fulfilling her student teaching requirement with Mt. Blue Middle School eighth-grade teacher Denise Mochamer, UMF class of 1989, and the 80 middle school students from four classrooms in the cohort.
Pomerleau felt very fortunate to have Mochamer as her mentor teacher and loved the kids.
“I was pretty stressed at the start, as I’m sure we all were,” said Pomerleau. “My time at Farmington has really prepared me for the teaching profession, and I didn’t want to miss my student teaching experience.”
Mochamer’s response to the situation was calm and supportive, according to Pomerleau. “Once we all caught our breath it was, “okay, how do we make this work for our kids?”
“We had to think outside the box,” said Pomerleau. “We are so fortunate that students in the Mt. Blue School District have laptops they can use and take home.
Mochamer transitioned classroom activities to Google Classroom, and office hours were set up with an online tool, three times a week, for students who needed extra help or just wanted to reach out. Also, Pomerleau has a weekly virtual meeting with her mentor teacher. Communication is key as Google Hangouts and email provide useful tools for staying in touch with students.
They still had to figure out how to help the students without internet at home, according to Pomerleau. She helped Mochamer create work packets the students could pick up when they picked up their daily meals provided by the district’s food service.
UMF student Maggie Pomerleau on one of her many virtual meetings with mentor teacher Denise Mochamer as they create virtual student teaching experience.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
“I have truly enjoyed working with Maggie this spring,” said Mochamer. “It didn’t go as originally planned, but we certainly have been creative and worked through this new learning. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anyone else but her.”
For the unit on argumentative writing, Pomerleau created a lesson plan and was busy grading 80 essays, while also working on her digital portfolio and teacher work sample for the end of her school year.
“It’s been hard not being at the middle school during my last semester at UMF. I see my students missing their friends, spring sports and the end of the year activities, and I am going through the same thing,” said Pomerleau.
“It’s been a challenging experience, but one that has helped prepare me for the crucial and evolving role teachers fill every day.”
In addition to her studies, Pomerleau has served as the student representative for the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, vice president for the UMF Class of 2020, a member of the UMF Student Senate and an Admissions Ambassador.
Darby Murnane, Editor-In-Chief
We close out the year with the spring’s final issue of the Farmington Flyer. As with the previous issue, we are still solely online with our contributing writers and reporters scattered across Maine and the U.S. Our stories in this issue continue to look outward from the UMF campus and cover a greater range of material from as many regions as our writers reside.
It is strange not to be holding the final issue in my hands, not to be writing these words on campus but rather from six states away. This is certainly not the proper ending to my time on Flyer that I had imagined, but so very few endings ever feel right and proper. So I will take what I have and make of it what I can.
Though this may be an ending for me, it is a beginning for the new staff who will be taking the reins on the paper for the year to come. I’d like to introduce Portia Hardy and Colin Harris as the new Editor in Chief and Assistant Editor. The current Assistant Editor and Secretary Emma Pierce will be guiding the new staff into their roles with her experience and expertise, as well her unending patience from dealing with me.
And to Portia and Colin, I offer you some advice that hopefully can be construed as wisdom and thoughts to keep with you as you take this paper and make it your own: This is the time to practice looking at the world with a more piercing gaze than you would’ve looked with before. There is always another layer to a story, another question to ask, another perspective to seek, another angle to consider. Pay attention to the story itself- this might sound silly, what else would you be paying attention to? But sometimes the story knows how it wants to be told, how it needs to be told, and if you don’t pay attention, you run the risk of telling it wrong as some stories require a specific form and voice. You will miss things- constantly. But don’t be afraid of that. Learn to ask yourself, “What am I missing? How do I find it?” Ask for help. This is not a job done alone, and should never be. I would never have survived without my fellow editors and relied daily on the support of their teamwork. And beyond even the staff, remember that this job is done with the help of those who agree to talk to you. Never forget your sources and the favor they have done you by donating their time and voices. Remember your empathy. If you don’t have an honest connection to your sources, if you don’t earn their trust, you have nothing. If a story of some sensitivity and weight lands on your desk, your every decision should be made with respect, dignity, and care. Not every detail, not every piece of a person, is meant for a larger audience.
Remember your grit, your resilience, your spine. It is your job in your reporting to maintain accountability and transparency. It’s your job to ensure nothing stays hidden or swept under the rug. But sometimes doing that job will start a fire. Even a small student paper like ours can, and has, sparked change. There will be days when it feels like everyone and their grandmother is coming after you. And it may induce the urge to throttle someone. Resist the urge, I beg you. And listen. Has there been a mistake? If so, how do you fix it? If you can swear up and down that you’ve done everything right, you may very well feel a wave of righteous anger, a sense of how dare you, and feel as though you should express all those feelings in the strongest possible terms. Don’t. If you can, wait 24 hours to collect yourself. If you can’t wait and an immediate response is required, never underestimate the power of asking “Can you tell me about your concerns?” It’s when you refuse to listen that a real problem will arise.
An editorial position is a lot to take on and I will not hide that from you. Just take it one story, one issue at a time and have mercy on yourself.
And to you, dear readers, be gentle. A student newspaper staff is perpetually in the learning curve as roles change hands every year. But still, hold us accountable as we hope to hold the community accountable. We will never continue to grow if our faults are hidden from us.
Thank you for your time, your voices, and your stories. Until we meet again.
Goodnight and Good News,
Darby Murnane, Editor-In-Chief 2019-2020
Brooke Valentin, Contributing Writer
Health care workers are in higher demand than ever before due to the sudden and wide spreading Coronavirus pandemic. They are on the front lines daily fighting against the virus and putting their own health at risk to help others. In the United States there are currently over 579,000 cases and nearly 22,300 deaths.
New York was the first state to get hit hard, with numbers rapidly rising to around 242,786 cases and 13,869 deaths. New Jersey follows as the second state with the largest number of cases, currently at around 85,301 confirmed cases and over 4,202 deaths. These numbers are according to The New York Times Coronavirus Tracker, as of this morning.
Roseanne Schottenfeld, a surgical nurse at JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ, said, “Working on the front lines is terrifying, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because we are not being properly protected.” Schottenfeld said every floor in the hospital is a COVID-19 floor. “We have all been deployed to floor work that we have no experience in. All our standards are null and void. There has been no leadership in protecting healthcare workers properly.”
Schottenfeld repeated a dark sentiment from one of her coworkers, saying, “This is like Hitler and the Nazis when after all was said and done and they asked all those German soldiers, ‘why did you do that?’ And they said ‘because they ordered us to.’ That’s exactly how we feel as nurses. They’re making us do things not only against our moral compass, but against all standards and regulations.”
Schottenfeld encourages other healthcare workers in her situation to be an advocate for themselves even if there are consequences.
Michelle Florczack, a Patient Care Technician in the oncology department at JFK Medical Center, says she has never seen anything like this in her 34 years in the field. “I have unknowingly taken care of patients with COVID-19. These were patients that we were told were negative but came back positive. While treating these patients I had no special personal protection equipment on,” Florczack said. “Four of our staff members ended up getting sick and tested positive and now they are not able to work.”
The current false negative rate for COVID-19 tests may be as high as 30% according to one article from Healthline.com.
Florczak, a mother of six, worries about her family. “I’m trying not to bring this home to my family. I don’t bring my clothes in the house, I change in my car, I leave my shoes and come right into the house and shower right away.” Florczack said.
Nurses are not being protected during this crisis and are finding themselves having to make tough decisions. “I have to work to take care of my family, and it’s so frustrating that we aren’t being properly protected. I will continue to fight for myself and my coworkers. We are on the front lines, we are the ones who need the most protection.” Florcazck urged.
Latisha Miller, a paramedic for the fire department of New York City says, “Working on the front lines is scary because we don’t know if we’re going to contract the disease and bring it home to our family. I see a lot of death and hear it over the radio constantly.” Every single call Miller has is a COVID-19 call.
“Although it’s scary working on the frontlines it’s also gratifying being able to help those in need. Whether it’s comforting them in their last moments or just being there.” Miller said.
Carmen Rosasa, Miller’s coworker, said, “I feel good knowing I am doing something for people in need. I also feel safe. New York has put in a lot of protocols to keep health workers safe during this pandemic.”
“We wear gowns over our uniforms, we wear masks, gloves, head coverings and slips over our shoes. We are completely covered. I think my biggest fear is that my Personal Protection Equipment will break or tear.” Miller said.
It is unclear when life will return to normal. New Jersey and New York’s lockdown could last into the summer. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives in New York, and have thrown health care workers into a terrifying and unknown frontier.
Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer
Since the closing of all schools due to COVID-19 members of the Monmouth community have been stepping up to provide food for the RSU 2 school district students in Monmouth and Winthrop, Maine.
Norm Thombs, director of Camp Mechuwana, a United Methodist Camp in Winthrop, jumped on the opportunity to help feed students in the community. Thombs is also one of the Monmouth Academy track coaches, and he and two other Monmouth track coaches, Tom Menendez, and Molly Menice helped pass out student meals.
Together, Monday through Saturday they stand outside the Town Office in Monmouth for an hour and a half, giving breakfast and lunch to anyone in need. In addition to passing out food, the three have also been traveling to Winthrop to pass out meals to Winthrop students on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Many students are desperate and in need of meals during this time. In one day alone they had given out 462 meals. Thombs’s plan is to continue giving out student meals as long as necessary.
When the schools closed, RSU 2 superintendent announced that food would not be provided for kids. When Thombs heard this, he wanted to create a pandemic feeding center at Camp Mechuwana to help the community. Within two days the camp was set up to be a food distribution center. In the beginning local schools helped Thombs, Menendez and Menice, “The first week some of the school workers from RSU 2 helped out in the kitchen,” he said. However, as the closings continued, the schools were no longer able to help, leaving the three to operate alone. The Winthrop school system had also begun struggling to find help, and asked if Camp Mechuwana would be able to provide food for their students.
Before lunchtime every day, both Thombs and Menendez travel to the camp to prepare and pick up food. A few students who had graduated from Monmouth Academy work in the camp kitchen to help prepare the meals. “[They] make all the meals and Tom and I back in the vans and load meals into them.” he said. Yet, Thombs wants as few people as possible in the kitchen due to the virus.
After passing out meals the group travels back to Monmouth to begin passing out meals at the town office. Whatever leftover food they have, which is normally not much, they take back to the camp and put in a cooler.
The food to make the meals is being supplied by companies such as NorthCenter Food Company and Dennis Food and Supply. These companies supply restaurants and cafeterias. People from the community have been generously donating paper bags, sandwich bags, and food containers. “People have been sending us donations because not all our costs are covered,” Thombs said. “People have been really great.”
Standing outside every day, often in the cold and rain, can be difficult, but Menendez said he is happy to help. “It puts a smile on their face,” he said. “At least the kids get a lunch and a breakfast.” The meals are helping meet the needs of people in the community.
Thombs, Menendez and Menice are experiencing added benefits as well. They are able to say hello to students, and meet new people in the community. “Some kids are so polite and so helpful when they come by with their parents,” Menendez said. “It makes you feel good.” One child who routinely goes to get lunch surprised him “There’s this one little kid who came down over the hill and asked if he could make me a picture,” Menendez said. “He came back about twenty minutes later with a picture”, Menendez now keeps the picture on his fridge.
The food provided is mainly for students who are unable to have breakfast and lunch because of school closures, yet they will not deny anyone from the community who needs a meal. “We’ll give them an extra meal if we know the family is in need,” Menendez said. There are elderly people who may be in need, or college students who have come home from school and may not be able to afford food. “If they need it, we’ll give it to them,” Menendez said.
Taylor Burke, Contributing Writer
Farmington’s essential businesses are working hard to serve their communities through the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), but since Maine Governor Janet Mills mandated the stay-at-home order, this hard work doesn’t come without challenges.
Franklin Printing, just five minutes away from UMF, has remained open because the customers they serve are part of essential industries. “The two general categories we service are medical supplies and food packaging,” said David Nemi, Marketing and Sales Manager at Franklin Printing, in an email interview. “One of our customers, Abbott Laboratories, is manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. We print the materials included with each kit.”
Nemi is very appreciative of how the staff is responding to the changes involving how business is being done. “We have a dedicated team who works hard to service our customers,” he said. “When Abbott needed COVID-19 materials from us in 24 hours, we rose to the occasion, working over the weekend to make a delivery on a Sunday morning.”
Franklin Printing is working hard to protect both its staff and customers in accordance with precautions concerning COVID-19. The building isn’t allowing any visitors except for those who are essential. In addition, they are constantly cleaning surfaces, practicing social distancing, and providing all employees with masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. “Everyone is adapting and understands our good decisions now will bring a better tomorrow that much sooner,” Nemi said.
Even though Franklin Printing is experiencing a decrease in business and have been forced to cut hours for their production team, Franklin Printing is using the challenges they’ve faced as a learning and growing opportunity. “Our goal is to make sound decisions now so there is no long-term financial impact,” Nemi said. “We are taking advantage of the various stimulus programs the state and federal government are offering to provide financial assistance to employees.”
Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, a pizza restaurant near Narrow Gauge Theater that opened in January, has been overwhelmed by the community response that it’s received over the changes. Mary Jamison, owner of the restaurant, has had to make, including laying off new employees, running the business by herself, and switching to take-out only. “The support from the community and the customers is amazing and humbling,” she said in a phone interview. “Everybody that comes in has been super friendly.”
Being a new business trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for Jamison, especially in the efforts to receive federal aid. “We don’t have a lot of the documentation that they’re needing,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to make it work.” This has included contacting banks and other resources recommended to her in order to get the assistance she needs. “It’s like starting the business all over again,” she said.
To keep everyone safe, Jamison is following social distancing guidelines and has made changes to how she interacts with customers. “It has all been a challenge, but we’re doing it.”
Jamison is also giving back to the community to those in need during these tough times. “We donated food for the kids’ meals through W.G. Mallett School,” she said. “We also worked with the Children’s Task Force to donate some pizzas to families in need.”
The Pierce House, a residential care facility located on Main Street in Farmington, also has the goal of keeping spirits alive for those that they serve. Administrator Darlene Mooar and her staff are doing everything they can to accommodate for new recommendations while also continuing to offer the same way of life that the residents enjoy. “We are providing the opportunity to carry on their most precious activities (exercise, Bingo, and sitting on the porch) by modifying the room set up to accommodate for social distancing.” They had to inform Pierce House residents and family members that there would be visiting restrictions
With these visiting restrictions in place, Mooar was worried about the residents. “My greatest concern is the risk of separation anxiety from their usual visits,” she said. However, her team still plans to support residents just like they always have. Through the kindness of those in the community, The Pierce House has been able to exceed the needs of their residents to make them as comfortable and safe as they can.
The Pierce House staff are reporting any symptoms of respiratory infection, taking their temperature before starting their shifts, and wearing surgical masks, cloth face shields, and face shields when needed. “The best thing I have seen is the employees’ willingness to do everything necessary to protect each other, the residents, and their own families,” said Mooar. “We are the armor that shields our most critical resource: human beings.”
Despite the challenges Farmington businesses are facing, they are still going strong with the support of their customers, community, and staff. Their resiliency is a true testament to how important togetherness and dedication are in times of uncertainty.