WES teacher Donna Footer reflects ahead of retirement

Mon, 05/13/2024 - 8:45am
Donna Footer's journey as an educator began in her hometown of Melrose, Massachusetts. From a young age, she knew she wanted to become a teacher and this was a dream that became a goal in the third grade. Growing up in a close-knit community, she witnessed the impact that her own teachers had on herself and other young learners.

After high school, she moved to Maine and attended the University of Maine at Farmington from 1977 to 1981. After spending many summers in Maine with family and attending school here, she knew she wanted to make Maine her home. She started teaching Adult Education in Rangeley in 1983. She then became a Title 1 teacher and continued to teach in Rangeley for another three years. Jacqueline Curley, a friend who taught art in Rangeley and in Wiscasset, told Footer about a teaching job that became available at the former Wiscasset Primary School. Footer was hired in 1987. She then moved to Wiscasset and continued her teaching career here. Her time in Wiscasset has included work with Title 1 and grades K, 1, 2 and 3. She loves teaching students of all ages and nothing is more rewarding than witnessing those early moments when children first realize they can read independently.

Footer has formed lasting relationships with her students and their families. Over the years she has watched her students grow from curious children into capable young adults. Being able to see the kids come to her door for trick or treating at Halloween and being able to catch up with former students around town have been the perks of living in the community she teaches in. She has found little notes, rocks, gifts and fan mail on her doorstep. Living in a small town and getting to know students and their families personally is priceless and these enduring bonds are treasures she will always hold dear.

She has learned much from her fellow teachers over the years. Virginia Kane (former WPS first grade teacher) had some sage advice early on: “Just make them want to come back.” This became Footer’s goal. No matter how challenging a day might be, she strives to create a space where students feel safe, nurtured, and eager to return the next morning.

When asked the biggest change or challenge she has experienced in her 41 years of teaching, she said the world has gotten busier and the fallout trickles down to the kids. Life is busier and more demanding for families than it used to be. Bedtime routines and home literacy time are very important for student success at school. There are many high stakes problems today as well. Food insecurity is also a real concern in communities. All of these struggles are things we have to continue to work on. She believes families and school communities working together as a team can help our kids be prepared for success. Children need help from their home and school to guide them to be problem solvers and good decision makers as they move into adulthood.

Footer has tried to make her classroom a “worry free” zone with a calm, supportive environment with the expected daily routines. As the years pass, she finds herself not just imparting knowledge, but also gaining invaluable wisdom from the students: Children have an innocent curiosity, resilience, and unique perspective.

She appreciates the cohesiveness of the staff here at WES and feels that their shared concern for the students makes a difference. Teaching is hard work but doing it together makes the load lighter and easier to bear.

In the past, Footer has taught summer school with Prue Warner, a retired second grade teacher from WPS. Years ago at WPS, Footer, Trae Stover, Mona Schlein and Sandra Pye collaborated with Morris Farm to create an annual Harvest Meal which fully integrated science and social studies including: hands on activities, interesting projects and specific teacher-made assessments/rubrics. Footer has been on the Certification Committee and in Partners in Education (PIE). She was a member of Wiscasset Female Charitable Society. Donna and Trae Stover were annual guest readers at Wiscasset Public Library for the summer library program.

Footer’s involvement with Garden Club of Wiscasset volunteers has meshed with the science curriculum at WES. She is the school liaison to the Garden Club. Students in all grade levels have jobs in the garden behind WES. 

Footer participated in the collaboration between WPS/WES and Wiscasset Community Center for student swim lessons.

Daughter Carolyn Footer attended the Wiscasset School System, graduated from WHS in 2012 and lives in Bath with her fiance, Jacob Tidd and their 3 year old daughter, Georgia. Donna Footer loves having them and other family close by and she gets to enjoy their company often. In the summer, she revisits Rangeley, escapes to Small Point and loves to visit her old friends from her hometown in Massachusetts.

Her “bucket list” after retirement includes exploring the many corners of Maine while visiting and learning about some of the traditional general stores and the very old churches and cemeteries in our state. She intends to visit Campobello Island (location of Roosevelt summer home) and intends to experience other types of travel. She will garden and read and will volunteer her time to WES. She is very excited to spend time with her granddaughter, Georgia. She hopes that hanging out with this busy youngster will keep her young!

As Footer embarks on her well-deserved retirement after 41 years of teaching, she leaves behind a profound legacy. Countless students have been shaped by her nurturing guidance. She hopes students were enriched by the experience she created within her classroom walls. Daily life will change after retirement, but she hopes to be an advocate for schools. Raising healthy, positive and productive children is everyone’s responsibility and Footer has spent her life working to do so.

We are proud to announce that Donna Footer is our staff Spotlight for April/May. We wish you many adventures and thank you for all of your amazing years of service to Wiscasset!