CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Under the guise of a schoolwide assembly meant to celebrate Cape Elizabeth’s sestercentennial, Maine education officials surprised the state’s teacher of the year Monday morning.

Talya Edlund, a third-grade teacher at Pond Cove Elementary School, is Maine’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching for 15 years, 12 of them in Maine.

“With her think-out-of-the-box approach to problem solving, tenacious attitude for overcoming challenges, zest for staying at the cutting edge of her craft, and uncanny insight into the needs of her students and colleagues, she is the teacher we all want our children to have and the colleague we hope to work with,” said Maine Department of Education Acting Deputy Commissioner Rachelle Tome. “Talya is a true inspiration and role model.”

As teacher of the year, Edlund will travel across the state to advocate for teachers, students and public school efforts to prepare students for college and careers, according to the DOE.

Edlund was named Cumberland County’s top teacher back in May, putting her in the running for the honor, along with 15 other educators representing Maine’s other counties.

Those candidates underwent a series of portfolio reviews, interviews and classroom visits until the list was whittled down to three finalists — Edlund; Brenda LaVerdiere, a fourth-grade teacher at Academy Hill School in Wilton; and Mia Morrison, a media and English teacher at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.

More than 300 teachers across the state were nominated for the 2016 Teacher of the Year Award.

The Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered by Educate Maine, a business-led group that advocates for education and workforce development.

Some of those business leaders, as well as state education officials and last year’s teacher of the year, Jennifer Dorman, took part in Monday’s celebration.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.