By Anthony Lewis, Staff Reporter
Changes are afoot at the newly dedicated Theodora J. Kalikow Education Center, where both the building and the curriculum materials library it is home to are being revamped and rebranded. In a ceremony preceded by out-of-season snow and characterized by a powerful sense of stewardship and community, former UMF President Theodora Kalikow’s name was applied to the education building, paving the way for the renaming of the curriculum materials center in honor of Loraine Spenciner, a past UMF faculty member who cultivated the now thriving early childhood education program.
In spite of what will soon be Governor Paul LePage’s infamous walkout only thirty seconds into his speech, the crisp, saturated air and late afternoon sunshine served as a backdrop to a ceremony punctuated by opening and closing remarks from President Kate Foster. Sporting an orange and gold patchwork vest, President Foster lauded Theo Kalikow as “a visionary”, whose dedication to sustainability and accessible education made the building which would soon bear her name a possibility.
Up until the ceremony, former President Kalikow’s name had adorned UMF’s curriculum materials center, Maine’s only state-funded lending library. What is soon to be known as the Spenciner Curriculum Materials Center offers a variety of tools for parents and educators, including children’s literature, curriculum materials, and state of the art assistive technology.
On May 6th, a little over a week after the Kalikow Education Center’s dedication ceremony, the materials center will be renamed in a separate ceremony in honor of the aforementioned Loraine Spenciner, who Associate Provost and Dean of UMF Education, Health, and Rehabilitation Kathy Yardley described as a dedicated champion of assistive technology and a driving force behind the curriculum center’s inception.
“Loraine was very much committed to assistive technology and making sure that all children were able to participate in activities,” she said in an interview last week. “She first started receiving grants back in 1988 because of her interest in technology in general. Since then, we’ve received grants overtime, and that’s continuously added to what we have for material support downstairs,” said Yardley referring to the Spenciner Center. “Loraine also gave a very generous scholarship, so we’ll be honoring both of those elements next week.”
Former President Kalikow herself had kind words to impart about Spenciner after the ceremony. The two worked closely together on cultivating UMF’s nationally-renowned early childhood education program, as well as, in the words of Dr. Yardley, fostering “teaching excellence” and exhibiting “our commitment to sustainability.”
“Oh, Loraine was the best professor,” Kalikow said with a glowing smile. “She was just so dedicated to the students, and worked very hard to find grants for projects we’d undertaken. If we were working on a big project, I would worry constantly about how we were going to pay for it, and she would always tell me ‘oh, don’t worry about it, I’ll get the grants!’ And she always did.”
The curriculum materials center was founded on a vast collection of assistive technology devices amassed by Spenciner herself, as well as over 7,000 books of children’s literature donated by former UMF professor Marcia Nash. Since Spenciner’s retirement, the assistive technology department of the materials center has been run by Assistant Professor of Special Education Lance Neeper. Professor Neeper is not only in charge of cataloguing and maintaining the Spenciner center’s assistive technology materials, but oversees the renewal of an annual grant from MaineCITE, a statewide project designed to provide assistive technology to children and adults with learning disabilities.
“The goal for assistive technology is sort of multi-faceted,” said Neeper in an interview held in his Kalikow Building office. His walls lined with binders, textbooks, and photos of his two children, Neeper spoke of the assistive technology department and its goals for the future in a calm, even tone native to those whose lives revolve around compassion. “We provide demonstrations for individuals, whether they’re out in the community or they come into the center. The main goal, though, is that individuals check out devices, try them out, see if it works for them, and then they’re able to make the decision whether they want to purchase it for themselves or not.”
Professor Neeper spoke highly of Spenciner, expressing admiration for her work and an immediate approval of the center being named in her honor.
“It wouldn’t exist without her; she’s the first one that got this grant,” he said. Neeper mentioned doing his best to uphold Spenciner’s vision of the center as a resource for people of all ages. “In our conversations before she passed, she kind of mentored me, and she had this vision…her focus was younger children, and that’s where a lot of the collection is. But she knew that my focus is not younger children, and she wanted to expand that, you know, to high school students and adults. So that’s kind of where we’ve been heading; to keep the collection, but expand it across the lifespan.”
The Spenciner Curriculum Materials Center will be officially named in a public ceremony on Friday, May 6, at 12 p.m. in the Bjorn Student Lounge in the Kalikow Building.