The 319th Recruiting Squadron of Hanscom Air Force Base honored Katahdin Middle High School math and science teacher Rowena Harvey for her dedication to students. U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Jared Speer, 319th Recruiting Squadron Commander presents the Sentry Award to Harvey. Credit: Courtesy of Sgt. Kimberly Nagle

STACYVILLE, Maine — A Katahdin Middle High School math and science teacher is one of 10 New England educators to receive the inaugural Air and Space Forces Sentry Educator Award.

Rowena Harvey was honored for her achievements and dedication to her students Thursday at the Stacyville school by representatives of the 319th Recruiting Squadron from Hanscom Air Force Base.

There were two Maine recipients of the award with others in Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Cyle Davenport of Deering High School in Portland was also honored. Students, other teachers, staff or principals can  nominate teachers for the award.

A Katahdin High School sophomore nominated Harvey and in a detailed letter spoke about the teacher’s accomplishments, how she inspired students, and her integrity and dedication to the community and the school.

“As the senior class adviser, she invites back KMHS alumni as graduation ceremony guest speakers to celebrate life journeys and lessons,” the student, who was not identified, wrote in the nomination letter. “She believes that despite coming from a small area, with arguably minimal resources, students can still achieve great things.”

Harvey’s students and family were among those who saw her receive a Sentry Helmet, which represents the 319th Squadron known as the Sentries.

“There is something very important about this school and we are here to honor a very important person,” U.S.Space Force Lt. Col. Jared Speer, 319th Squadron commander, said to the students during the presentation, adding that they place a high value on education.

Speer talked about Harvey’s work with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and how that connects to the squadron’s goals. He also highlighted her work as president of the teacher’s union and as a member of the board of trustees for the Veteran’s Memorial Library in Patten.

Harvey walked up to receive her award to a booming student drum roll, cheers and applause. 

“This is really unexpected and I appreciate this,” she said to the students and the Air Force contingent.

Harvey said in an interview later in the day that everyone kept the award a secret and she had no idea she was getting it. When she walked into the auditorium for the event, she saw her sister sitting there and thought something must be up.

In an algebra class following the ceremony, Harvey said she looked around and realized that she also taught the parents of every student in the class. She is a Katahdin Middle High School graduate as well.

The students keep her going and their accomplishments inspire her and she hopes they also inspire other students, she said.

As the Senior Class adviser for about 10 or 15 years — she said she lost count — she always tells the graduates that they can do anything they want, they just have to work hard.

Harvey has been teaching for nearly four decades — not only standard classes but also dual-enrollment college algebra, chemistry, biology and pre-calculus.

She is also the director of the Adult Education Program, mentors new hires and works closely with students for annual S.T.E.M. presentations, according to Harvey’s nomination letter.

The 319th Squadron visited 870 New England schools to find the top educators and Harvey was selected from about 100 nominees, Speer said.

Nominations included a short essay about the nominee and how they support the Air Force core values of excellence, integrity and service.

“These educators are paving the way for a future where young learners can dream big, reach for the stars and make remarkable contributions to the world,” said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Nagle, 319th Recruiting Squadron Marketing NCO in charge, who oversaw the Sentry Educator Award program. “We just wanted a way to celebrate them and show them how much we care.”

In addition to the Air Force Sentry trophy, award recipients will be enrolled for the Air Force Educator Tour, giving teachers an opportunity to experience the Air Force and Space Force firsthand, Nagle said.

Other educators honored include Tyler Boone, Brattleboro Union High School, Brattleboro, Vermont; Dr. Erik Day, Coleytown Middle School, Westport, Connecticut; Harley Hall,  Merrimack High School, Merrimack, New Hampshire; Professor Jesse Johnson, Westfield State University, Westfield, Mass.; Brian Moore, Contoocook Valley High School, Peterborough; N. Alan Petty, Worcester High School, Worcester, Mass.; Elena Sileo, Torrington High School, Torrington, Conn.; Michael Vadney: Toll Gate High School, Warwick, Rhode Island.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...