PORTLAND, Maine — The head of school for one of Maine’s first charter schools has been named one of 10 “game changers” in the nation by an education and trade publisher.

Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gave Michele LaForge, head of school for Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, one of its inaugural Game Changer Awards for charter school leaders.

“Being a part of Baxter is one of the best things I have ever done,” LaForge said. “Possibly the scariest but definitely the most interesting. I am so proud of our school, and I am grateful that my work has contributed in a meaningful way.”

The education company selected the recipients based on their contribution to education and their impact on student success and achievement, according to a news release. LaForge’s nomination entry cited her “distinguishing achievement as innovative leadership” during Baxter’s startup years.

Baxter opened in Portland in September 2013 and expects to graduate its first crop of students in June 2016. There are 320 students enrolled from more than 60 Maine school districts.

LaForge taught at Freeport High School for a decade before leaving to help start Baxter.

The school has a heavy focus on science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — curriculum and emphasizes problem-solving. The school operates like a typical school Mondays through Thursdays, but students spend Fridays working on self-selected projects that could range from building a robot to starting a business.

“If I hope for anything, it’s to validate this kind of learning,” LaForge said.

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