Awards honoring outstanding leadership and service to the College will be presented May 30, 2015, during Reunion Convocation. Read about the other award recipients.
Bernard Fortier, of Lewiston, Maine, and a member of the Class of 1979, has been honored by the Bowdoin College Alumni Council with one of two 2015 Distinguished Educator Awards.
The award was established in 1964 to recognize outstanding achievement in education (teaching or administration) by a Bowdoin alumnus or alumna in any field and at any level of education.
Fortier, a European history major who graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, is now in his 24th year at Lewiston High School, where he enthusiastically teaches Latin, sometimes using song, dance, and even costumes to engage his students. Fortier’s passion is contagious; the school’s Latin program has grown from 30 students to more than 200.
“It mushroomed,” Fortier said. “It’s an incredibly dry subject. I have to bring it to life.”
The lessons of learning language have been with Fortier from the beginning. He hails from a bilingual family in Biddeford, Maine, where both French and English were spoken in his home.
After graduation from Bowdoin, he spent three years in the seminary in Rome, where he studied Philosophy and Theology at the Gregorian University. He ultimately returned to Maine, where he realized that his deepest passion was for teaching. He later earned a master’s degree at St. Michael’s College.
“I wanted to serve God’s people but not as a priest,” he said. “ I still feel you can serve God’s people, whether you’re a priest or a teacher.”
Fortier taught French and Latin, first at Catherine McAuley and Cheverus High Schools in Portland, and then at Kennebunk High School.
In 1991, he took the position teaching French and Latin at Lewiston High School, one of the state’s most culturally diverse schools, and one where he hoped to make a difference in a community where there are as many rewards as there are challenges.
“’Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’ This has been the guiding principle of my teaching philosophy for the past 30 years,” says Fortier.
“I care deeply about the kids who sit in front of me every day and I want to make a difference in their lives.”
The Distinguished Educator Awards will be presented Saturday, May 30, 2015, during Reunion Convocation.