Bowdoin’s Santoro Addresses UMF Graduating Class

By Tom Porter

Professor of Education Doris Santoro praised the benefits doing “good work” in a commencement day address she delivered May 6, 2023, to graduating seniors at the University of Maine, Farmington (UMF), which is considered one of the premier teacher education programs in New England.

santoro w UMF pres

Doris Santoro with UMF President Joseph McDonnell. Image:

“As a philosopher of education... and as someone who has studied the sources of teacher satisfaction for nearly twenty years, it is a special honor to be recognized by an institution so integral to teacher education in the state of Maine,” said Santoro, who also received an honorary degree at the ceremony.

Before embarking on the next phase of their lives, she urged the new graduates to look back and bring to mind one teacher or professor “who made it possible for you to be sitting here today. Perhaps it was the second-grade teacher who realized you were having reading difficulties, the middle school physical education teacher who taught you something about belonging, the high school math teacher who conveyed the elegance of equations. Perhaps it was a professor here at UMF who helped you find balance and academic purpose during the upheavals caused by the pandemic,” said Santoro.

She paid special tribute to her high school English and journalism teacher, Mr. McCrobie, who pushed her to take herself seriously. “He held me accountable, and his good work made a difference that neither he nor I could totally anticipate at the time,” said Santoro, whose research explores the moral and ethical sources of teacher dissatisfaction and resistance.

Watch the ceremony: Santoro’s speech starts at 1:35:35

“Good work is what I hope for all of you graduates,” she continued, going on to explain how “good work” is not necessarily about high-paying jobs or even careers well regarded by others. “Good work is about finding something that provides an important service to others that you can undertake ethically, that is in a way that helps and does not harm others, and that lives up to the standards recognized by your peers.”

Santoro was also honest in addressing the challenges facing teachers today, describing how many of them feel overwhelmed, undervalued, disrespected, and demoralized by the difficult conditions under which they work. She implored those graduates who are becoming teachers to make their voice heard. “Welcome to a profession that has the potential to offer unbelievably fulfilling and gratifying work. Unite with your colleagues to demand these conditions. The public schools cannot function without you.”

To those graduates who are not going into teaching, Santoro stressed the role they have in supporting “the conditions that allow educators to find meaning, experience joy, and feel sustained while serving our communities.”

Read local media coverage of the event.