Kate Rotroff, adult education director in Gorham and Westbrook, is retiring next month.
Kate Rotroff, who is retiring after serving as the adult education director at Westbrook and Gorham school districts for two decades, says she’ll miss both her fellow educators and former students.
GORHAM — Kate Rotroff will retire at the end of June after serving as the adult education director for the Gorham school district for two decades.
Rotroff, who lives in Portland, began her duties in Gorham 20 years ago and, in a collaborative role for the past two years, has served simultaneously as a director in Westbrook.
Her successor in both Gorham and Westbrook is Shelli Pride, college transitions coordinator/instructor at Windham-Raymond Adult Education in RSU14.
Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry said Rotroff has diligently served adult learners. “She has connected our adult learning programs to our high schools and to our communities,” Perry said.
Superintendent Peter Lancia said Rotroff helped rebuild Westbrook’s adult education program, which now enrolls around 150 adult learners, many of whom are immigrants who need to learn English.
“She has been instrumental in developing all levels of English language classes, and through a Maine Department of Education grant has established a partnership with Westbrook Regional Vocational Center to offer a program of career and technical education classes such as CDL truck driving and CNA licensure,” Lancia said.
Perry said Rotroff was instrumental in forming the Gorham Business Roundtable and conducting a survey to identify skills businesses seek from graduates. “She is passionate about adult learning and making sure that no student is left without an opportunity to learn and grow as an individual,” Perry said.
Rotroff estimates the local adult education program has helped hundreds since she came on board in the late ’90s.
Praising staff in both communities Rotroff said, “I take a lot of pride in what our students have accomplished,”
Many former students stay in touch with her on Facebook. Students she recalled include a paralegal now working in animal rescue and another who is a Buddhist monk.
Rotroff also taught a man who graduated with his son-in-law and granddaughter. When the older man died, his obituary included his graduation photo, where he was dressed in a cap and gown.
A University of Southern Maine graduate, Rotroff began her career as an education technician in Appleton and once taught adult education at Cumberland County Jail in Portland. She taught in the basement and said there’s no sound like jail doors locking. “It’s an eerie feeling,” she said.
One of her inmate students had been charged with arson but he claimed his innocence until he was convicted. He then told her how he did it.
When she began in 1999 as adult education director and teacher in Gorham, Rotroff said she attended a two-day conference in Orono. Returning to Gorham, she recalled she was at first afraid to open the GED files.
Now, Perry said, “She is a well-known leader across the state of Maine.”
Besides education, Rotroff worked some unique other jobs. She was once a Maine blueberry inspector, a groom in harness racing, a pari-mutuel teller at Scarborough Downs, and a snack bar operator in Camden.
When the horse she cared for raced, she would go in the ladies room and cover her ears. “I was so afraid the horse would get hurt,” she said.
In retirement, Rotroff, a grandmother of four, will continue a tradition she started of taking her grandchildren and nieces on trips. In mid-June, she’ll visit England with her youngest grandson. She said he’s a high school junior soccer player in New Hampshire and a stadium in Liverpool is a must-stop on their itinerary.
Upon her return, she’s hoping to volunteer as a driver at Avian Haven, a wild bird rehab center in Freedom. But Rotroff said she will miss the people she worked with in education and her students.
“I’ve loved it,” Rotroff said. “It’s been a wonderful ride.”
Robert Lowell can be reached at 780-9089 or email [email protected]