WINTERPORT — This year’s finalists for 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year include two educators from Regional School Unit 22, one of whom was born and raised in Waldo County.

Hillary Hoyt, a third grade teacher at Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport, graduated from Searsport High School in 2009 and received a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Maine at Orono. Growing up, she said, she always loved helping out with kids.

Besides teaching math, reading, writing, social studies and science at the Smith School, she also teaches dance at Top Hat II Studio in Hampden, where she says she initially discovered her love for teaching kids. Hoyt also finds time to be head coach of the Husson University cheer and dance teams.

“My three jobs allow me to see kids of all ages,” she said, adding, “It gives me a unique perspective.” She noted that she aims to make a difference in all of her students’ lives by engaging them in every lesson. With her nomination as finalist, she hopes to show her students that dreams can come true.

Hoyt said she has received a tremendous amount of support from friends, family and community members on this journey. “I am honored to be a finalist and be able to share the importance of engaging our students with each other, their community and most importantly, the world.”

Through it all, Hoyt said, she is humbled by the experience of being chosen for the program. “It connects you to amazing educators across the state,” she said. “I’ve met 15 other inspirational teachers that I can learn from.”

Hoyt said she became fast friends with fellow RSU 22 educator Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden, another of the three finalists.

Though Hoyt said they did not know each other before, they discovered they have many things in common and have been supporting each other throughout the process. “It’s amazing to go through this together,” Hoyt said. The third finalist is Paige Fournier, who teaches at Freeport Middle School.

When asked about her challenges in the classroom as a result of the pandemic, Hoyt said she realized the importance of having dependable internet accessibility in the community. She said the remote learning model showed “what we are capable of doing,” and added that the entire process “really does take a village.”

“We need to show kids that they can live in Maine and still be a global citizen,” she said.

Hoyt believes in the power of teaching science and admits to being a bit of a science nut. If she could be Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series, she would. “Science allows for everyone to have a seat at the table,” Hoyt said. “And the kids get so excited about it!”

Leroy H. Smith School Principal Dawn Moore said, “Ms. Hoyt is an amazing teacher who puts her all into educating children. When you walk into her classroom, you will see teamwork, collaboration, creativity and innovation. She is truly an inspiration for students.

“Any student who has had Ms. Hoyt will tell you her love for education is catchy; even the toughest students learn to love school,” she said.

Maine Department of Education will announce the 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year in October. The program honors outstanding teachers who represent thousands of excellent educators across the state. Maine’s Teacher of the Year serves as an advocate for the teaching profession, education and students, and will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year program.