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.
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.
Samantha Creech, Contributing Writer
Maine Medical Center (MMC), the top-rated hospital in Maine located in Portland, is at the epicenter of the most coronavirus cases in the state and determined to give the best care to their patients during this crisis. MMC has thousands of staff members working around the clock for their COVID-19 patients.
Dr. August Valenti, epidemiologist and director of the Special Infectious Diseases Program at MMC, has been working tirelessly to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections and the spread of infectious diseases at the hospital. Valenti also works with public health agencies statewide and nationally to help identify and manage communicable diseases.
Valenti and his team at MMC are trained to care and manage patients with pathogens such as Ebola and COVID-19. “I am working with clinical and administrative leaders at [MMC] and its parent organization, MaineHealth, to develop policies and procedures related to protecting people who work and enter our hospitals from getting COVID-19,” said Valenti.
Valenti has concerns during this ever-growing pandemic and even after things seem to return to normal. “My biggest worries are for victims of the disease and the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of this epidemic. I want to keep them and their families safe,” he said. “I am also concerned that the virus will be with us for a long time until we have a vaccine or proven therapies and that even as things begin to return to normal, sporadic cases will cause additional outbreaks.”
Valenti strongly believes in the importance of social distancing and other precautions needed in order to decrease coronavirus numbers. “There is no doubt that social distancing has mitigated community spread of the virus here in Maine,” he said.
Kristin Clark, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), has had to change her role at MMC due to the suspension of all elective surgeries and procedures. Normally, Clark administers anesthesia for surgeries and other procedures, but due to surgery and procedures suspension, there’s not enough anesthesia work for the CRNA staff. “The [ICU has] more work than they can handle,” Clark said. “Our entire staff has been cross-trained to the ICU to help in the care of those patients, both COVID and otherwise.”
Marie Hodge, occupational therapist team leader, has continued her role in supervising her team and seeing patients. Since the overall volume of patients has decreased, she has also been focusing on the logistical work of COVID-19, which includes scheduling ICU training, giving medical staff personal protective equipment (PPE), and problem-solving issues involving workflow to COVID-19. “Usually we have ample time to prepare staff and plan for major changes, but changes occur here on a daily basis and we need to respond quickly,” said Hodge.
Some of Hodge’s major concerns center around the wellbeing of her team and the other staff at MMC. “[Our staff] are stressed with the sheer [number] of changes to keep up on, the fear of contracting COVID-19 and they have personal stresses as well,” she said.
Jennifer Cote, an occupational therapist at MMC, still works a lot with her patients despite the risks. Her role is to assure when a patient is discharged from MMC, that they can complete daily tasks on their own, and ensure they are cognitively intact. She primarily works in the ICU.
On a normal day, Cote spends a lot of her time with the patient’s and their families to go over after hospital care and guidance. Now, MMC does not allow any visitors so Cote and her colleagues have found difficulty in family teaching. They were given iPads to communicate with families, but it is not the same as in-person discussions.
Every day after work, Cote says she immediately showers and changes her clothes so she can remain healthy for her work. “My biggest worry is that I could bring this disease home to my family as a result of working here,” says Cote. “I can say that MMC is well-prepared and has all the appropriate PPE for staff. That gives me comfort.”
Andrea Swiedom Staff Reporter
When people ask senior Samantha Rose Aloba Melgar where she’s from, they’re rarely satisfied with her initial response of the Gardiner/Augusta area. Often, they ask her again with an emphasis on from. “I feel like I have to explain because I don’t belong to one place. To me, where you are from is such a heavy question,” Aloba Melgar said. “I assume they’re asking where you are originally from and I don’t know. I am just used to telling people the Philippines-Maine-Texas-Maine story.”
Aloba Melgar moved to Augusta with her mother and older brother from Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines when she was nine years old. Her mother had remarried a man from Maine and they arrived during a Jan. snowstorm. “It was my first experience of snow because in the Philippines there’s only a wet and dry season, and I was just looking around really fascinated,” Aloba Melgar said.
While she’s still fascinated by snow, she admitted that that’s about as far as her appreciation goes for Maine winters. “I like it when it first initially snows,” Aloba Melgar said with her fingers dancing in mid-air to mimic snow falling. “But the cold that comes with it and when it gets dirty…” she trailed off shaking her head in discomfort.
She experienced a short break from New England winters when she was 11 years old after her mother’s divorce led the family to move to El Paso, Texas where they reconnected with extended family members. For the first time since living in the United States, Aloba Melgar was amongst Filipino Americans. “There is a community here in Maine, but we’re not really a part of it. It was nice in Texas to get to know them and not have it be as scattered as it is here in Maine,” she said.
Exposure to Filipino culture in Texas brought back nostalgic memories of Aloba Melgar’s early childhood in Cebu where large family gatherings consistently took place several times throughout the month. “I do miss the physical gathering of us together,” she said. “Sometimes we would go to the beach. Mostly, we would either go to someone’s house or go to a restaurant together.”
Samantha Melgar. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Melgar.
Aloba Melgar’s face lit up as she described the strong tradition surrounding food at family reunions and one of the dishes her mom still makes regularly at home called pancit, a noodle dish similar to chow mein that is quickly fried with vegetables and seasoned with soy sauce.
“Food is a big thing in the Philippines, we love to share food. We just love food, and I think that transcends beyond any language,” Aloba Melgar said. Although, she admitted that she has struggled to carry on her culture’s culinary traditions in an attempt to avoid washing dishes.
While in El Paso, Aloba Melgar joined a Christian church and was baptized in the Protestant faith while her mother remained Roman Catholic, the primary religion in the Philippines. While this was not a dramatic change, it does demonstrate how Aloba Melgar’s identity often reflects her dual origins of the United States and the Philippines.
“There are views that formed while I grew up here, and there are views that stayed with me that I learned from the Philippines. I’ve noticed in Western culture, you guys like independence very much and by the time you’re 18, you’re expected to go off,” she said. “Usually in the Philippines, for my family anyway, you stay with the family and usually the older sibling takes care of the parents.”
Aloba Melgar considers herself Generation 1.5, which refers to immigrants who moved to the U.S. as adolescents. “You’re not really a generation one, and you’re not a generation two; you didn’t entirely grow up in the States,” she said. “So you are both, battling with two identities.”
Aloba Melgar still has vivid memories of her childhood in the Philippines and how certain aspects were ironically unaffected by place. She played with Bratz dolls and princess Barbies and binge-watched Disney movies.
But she also reflected on aspects of her childhood that were unique to the society and culture in the Philippines. “We would play hide-and-go-seek in the woods with a lot of bugs or go into abandoned houses,” she said. “I could say, ‘Mom, I’m gonna be gone and I will come back later,’ and it was usually fine. I don’t think it was dangerous, there was never an idea that there was a dangerous situation.”
Aloba Melgar also remembered the cost of education and the strain it had on her mother who was determined to keep her and her older brother in school.
“We were a middle class family in the Philippines, but there was a time when my mom’s salary was not enough, and my mom had to pick between me and my brother,” she said. “My mother sat me down once and told me that I might have to stop school, and I started crying. Luckily that didn’t happen. My mom moved me to a different school that was cheaper.”
Aloba Melgar’s family spent a short year and a half in El Paso before returning to Maine which seemed to be beckoning them back. “I think we just met the right people, and that really contributed to why we came back and stayed here.”
After graduating from Cony High School in Augusta, Aloba Melgar enrolled at UMF to pursue psychology after breaking the news to her mother that she would not be going to school for nursing. “I was going to go to USM, but then out of nowhere, I realized that I didn’t want to become a nurse because that is more of what my mom pushed me to do. Nursing is actually a Filipino stereotype,” she said, chuckling.
Samantha Melgar as a kid in the Philippines. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Melgar.
Her mother supported her interest in counseling, but as Aloba Melgar studied psychology she found herself more drawn to social work. She also realized that her mother had imprinted some career ideas on her that were still intriguing such as working for the United Nations or the Peace Corps.
When Aloba Melgar was still considering nursing in high school, she always imagined traveling for work. She started exploring international social work options and that’s when she learned that the Peace Corps was essentially just that. “I wanted more experience before going into grad school and I was just exhausted with academia.”
Aloba Melgar applied to the Peace Corps last semester and will be returning to the Philippines in early July for the first time since she was nine years old to work as a youth development facilitator.
“I am going to be working with elementary age to even up to college age people, just helping them with education, to access resources, with positive identity and vocational skills, with critical thinking and healthy lifestyle activities, with mentoring and workshops.”
For the next two years, Aloba Melgar will be reintroducing herself to a place that she considers to be a significant part of her identity. “I want to explore and go back to where I started. I just want to see the changes,” she said. “I want to make connections again with the culture and see how I will react to it now that I’ve spent more than half my life here in the U.S.”
My cat keeps waking me up by attacking my feet in the morning. Unfortunately, my immediate reaction is to kick due to being startled, knocking my poor cat off the bed. How do I stop this cruel instinctual vice?
Look dude, my first instinct is to kick anyone who’s got a thing for feet too. Which clearly your cat does. The answer here is to kink-shame your cat into repressing its urge to go after your feet. When a guy at The Roost grabbed my foot out of nowhere, I threatened to skin him alive and that seemed to do the trick.
So during that last fire alarm debacle in FAB, one of the alarms went off while my boyfriend and I were mid-action. And I guess my question is, would it be bad to finish before we leave if that ever happens again?
-Coming and Going
Dear Coming and Going,
Are you trying to say that you engage in the pre-marital frickle-frackle on my morally pure campus? You heathens. Finish or don’t, that’s up to you, but whatever you decide might mean that more than just the building is burning.
Bite’s going to a farm upstate at the end of this semester. . . Yeah that’s right, this Bite is getting kicked to the curb (graduating) and now we need a new one.
Do you have a problem containing your scathing sarcasm? Do you have an uncanny to make any situation so much worse if only for the sake of being the mistress or master of chaos? Do you have just enough undue arrogance to think you can take over this terrible advice column and steer campus readers wrong a few times a semester? If so, you should come to a Flyer staff meeting in Roberts 010 on Monday’s at 12:15 p.m. or email email@example.com to show your interest. Please for the love of everything good in this world, try it out. We’re vaguely (really) desperate.
It is tax season and that means that college students who file are most likely getting refunds.
If you worked a lot in 2019 the chances are your refund is large. If you’re not behind on bills or desperately need to spend the money, this is a good chance to get ahead on your savings and build an emergency fund.
There are also many ways you could invest this money rather than using it for quick purchases that provide momentary satisfaction. Saving your money to use on textbooks next fall, using it as grocery money for the semester, paying rent, or investing it into your long term savings account are all really good ways for spending your refund wisely.
Making conscientious purchases such as those will benefit you in the long run, rather than using it to go out to dinner, to buy your 7th pair of Vans or a new sweatshirt.
Be smart with your refund and be sure to file your taxes with us by setting up an appointment with a peer coach by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.