Lecturer II, Education Teaching Supervisor,
Coordinator for Elementary Education
M.S., University of Southern Maine
B.S., University of Maine at Portland-Gorham
Ending up at UMF was a happy accident for Elementary Education Teaching Supervisor Joe Tutlis, who spent had spent 27 years as a teacher, principal and school administrator. And it is a happy coincidence for the UMF Education students he prepares and supervises for teaching in the classroom.
“Teaching at UMF wasn’t anything I planned. But it’s marvelous because the observational skills that I used as a principal, I use every day with my practicum students. My experiences as a fourth, fifth and sixth grade teacher, I use every day. I probably could not have designed any experiences to better prepare me for this job,” Tutlis said.
“One of the nice things about the University of Maine at Farmington is its size. We are not a huge school. Our Education program is large enough to offer so much to students, but not so big that they get lost,” said Tutlis.
The Hardest Job You’ll Ever Love
As Coordinator for Elementary Education, Tutlis supervises Elementary Education students who work in local classrooms as part of their practicum experience. Practicum offers education majors their first teaching opportunities. “My job is to place UMF students in schools and have them understand what schools are like when they are on the other side of the desk as teachers,” Tutlis said.
“For many Education majors, Practicum will be their hardest — but one of their most rewarding — semesters at UMF. They are totally immersed. They need to be focused. Those that are, do quite well,” Tutlis said. Because Practicum is challenging and time consuming, it is the only class students take during that semester. Most Education majors take the 16-credit course during their second year, after successfully passing the Praxis I exam.
“I get to walk them through that experience. I’ve seen a lot over the years and one of the nice things about having spent 27 years in education is that you don’t have to recreate the wheel to find a solution every time,” Tutlis said. “Sometimes I am able to draw from my own career, and sometimes I draw on the experience of other students to help my current students find teaching solutions.”
Many Education students love their Practicum course and seek even more practical experience in the classroom, Tutlis said. “We are piloting two sections of Advanced Practicum for third year and fourth year students. I observed two today in Belgrade and Wilton. What’s nice is I get to see my students’ improvement over time. Their growth and maturity is amazing.”
Ready with Good Advice
Tutlis not only supervises Practicum and Advanced Practicum students, he also supervises student-teachers. Joe advises Education majors, which means he can mentor some students throughout their entire college career. His office wall is decorated with photos of his students. “We know who our students are. I know those faces on my wall. When I walk around campus, I see my students. I have these students as a teacher and an advisor. Those professional relationships are very important, and we maintain them even after graduation,” Tutlis said.
The Elementary Education faculty work together to help students succeed. By communicating with one another, faculty know when students are doing well or when they are struggling and need support, Tutlis said.
“Our program is tight. There is not a lot of wiggle room if students want to finish in four years, which we want them to do. They need to take the right courses at the right time. So we try to give them good advice. It’s good to have those long-term relationships with students. We want our students to be successful,” Tutlis said.
UMF Graduate to Successful Teacher
Those relationships can become lasting professional connections, Tutlis explained. One UMF graduate, who was Tutlis’ student 12 years ago, is now a successful teacher mentoring UMF Education students in her classroom. “She thanked me for encouraging her to mentor my students,” Tutlis said. “It’s been a very positive experience for her and the students.”
“Today, I visited a school where four of my former students are working to observe one of my current students. It felt like homecoming week to me. They greet me warmly and I remember them fondly. It’s so exciting when former students become mentors for my current students,” Tutlis said.
As a long-time teacher and administrator before coming to the University, Tutlis was familiar with UMF’s reputation for high-quality teacher preparation. “One of the first teachers I ever hired was a UMF graduate. She brought her portfolio to the interview and that portfolio separated her from the rest of the candidates. It allowed me to see this quiet young woman in a whole different light. I hired her, and she became a very successful teacher,” recalled Tutlis.
A Professional Portfolio
“That portfolio process is even more sophisticated today, and I think principals today would be even more impressed with our students work,” Tutlis said. “Creating a portfolio is a lot of work — but when it’s well done — it’s incredible. It really shows off our students’ potential.”
“There are 10 teaching standards in which teachers in Maine need to display competency, and by the time our students graduate, they have developed a portfolio showing evidence that they have skill and knowledge in all these areas,” Tutlis said.
At the end of the semester, a day is set aside for students to present their portfolios to faculty, mentors and peers. It is a celebration of their work and portfolios are powerful, containing lessons, observations, projects, and professional accomplishments, Tutlis said. “On Portfolio Day, it’s a joy to watch students interact with their work and see how mature they have become, because by then, they are ready to go out and teach.”
Work That You Love
“I love to come to work every day. Not only do I love doing what I do — working with my students and watching them grow I also look forward to seeing my colleagues, the people up and down these halls. I get work at a place where I am accepted and I accept others, and we work together toward a common goal — to prepare people to become teachers,” Tutlis said.
But more than personally satisfying, Tutlis’ strong, supportive professional relationships mirror the kinds of professional partnerships his future teachers need to develop. “I hope my students see me and my fellow faculty members working together because the teachers of tomorrow absolutely need to work together,” Tutlis said, “Teaching today is a much more collaborative process. It’s also how we get better, with the support of one another.”
The Great Outdoors
“I try to stay active. I ski, hike and I’ve built a couple of kayaks. I love kayaking. I love to go biking. I love to be outside, and this part of Maine is fantastic for that. Right from campus, you can go for a run, mountain bike, go work out or go skiing,” Tutlis said.
“The three big ski areas — Sugarloaf, Saddleback and Sunday River — are all about an hour away from campus. In Farmington, there is Titcomb Mountain, which is a wonderful local ski area right the center of town, ” Tutlis said.
“Farmington is just a nice area, it’s not a big city where you get swallowed up. Even at the bank they greet me by name,” Tutlis said.