In honor of the lightkeepers
A teacher’s light is like a lighthouse beacon, illuminating the darkness to what might not be seen, guiding and directing sailors through fierce and unyielding storms. The light does not only show a person the way, but it can positively change the path they’re traveling. Lighthouses need care and commitment from others for their beacons to shine brightly. While today most lighthouses are automated, there was a time when lightkeepers were charged with maintaining lighthouses by cleaning the glass, trimming wicks, and sounding fog horns to warn ships when they were too close to rocky shores riddled with unseen dangers. Lightkeepers ensured that the light could shine.
One of the many reasons why I #LoveTeaching in Caribou is because our community has always served as lightkeepers. Growing up in Caribou, I saw lightkeepers everywhere. When I rode my bike all around town, drivers were keenly aware of my presence, often letting me cross the street safely. I learned how to count money by buying penny candy at Jandreau’s, where the shop owner patiently waited for me to count my change, secretly swiped from my dad’s dresser. During summer heat waves, my friends and I swam at the community pool and then ice skated Aroostook County’s long winters away at the huge man-made outdoor rink, always supervised by young adults also helping to light our paths.
However, there was no better place to feel the light that Caribou lightkeepers ensured than at school. So many teachers were able to shine their light on me because of the many lightkeepers who supported education. I was taught to appreciate math by Mrs. Lockhart, to understand the power of my voice by Ms. Levesque, and to know that everyone had a song to sing by Mrs. Cyr. Because of their light and influence, I grew to #LoveTeaching and chose, too, to spread light and love from a classroom.
Our school district continues to be surrounded by our community lightkeepers in a variety of ways. Recently, my grade 8 teaching team was gifted a generous donation from the Caribou Office of The County Federal Credit Union so we can provide classroom snacks to our students.
According to stacker.com, 23 percent of children in Aroostook County face food insecurities, which is almost 60 percent higher than the national average. This means that in an Aroostook County classroom, where the average class size is 20, about 5 students are probably hungry. Children cannot learn if they are distracted by hunger. Classroom snacks can make a profound impact. Student concentration and focus are improved, which makes thinking and learning easier.
The credit union isn’t the only lightkeeper supporting access to healthy snacks. The Kiwanis Club also supports our school food pantry. Their lightkeeping helps provide meals and snacks to students outside of the school day.
We can all serve as lightkeepers to support our local school communities. If you feel like you could help, reach out to your community’s school or a classroom teacher that you know and ask them what they need to continue shining their light. Lightkeepers #LoveTeaching, too.
Kim Barnes resides in Caribou and teaches at Caribou Community School. She is the 2019 Aroostook County Teacher of the Year.