Steven Reece started his law enforcement career in 1983 with the Portland Police Department, where he retired in 2017. Still living in the greater Portland area, he took his experience and started teaching at Lewiston Regional Technical Center, where, he says, his students keep him young.
His teaching efforts at the center earned him the Career and Technical Education Excellence Award this year from the Maine Administrators of Career and Technical Education and Maine Association for Career and Technical Education.
What interested you in law enforcement? I was living overseas and working part time in a bakery that my father managed for the last two years of high school. The bakery made all the McDonald’s hamburger rolls for the United Kingdom and Europe at the time. It was great physical work but I wanted a job that I could use my mind, along with the physical aspect, combined with the element of the unexpected. I came back to Maine and received my associate’s degree in law enforcement from Southern Maine Community College and started to work for Portland Police Department. In Maine, you usually start as a police officer and with a variety of different career paths that Portland Police Department offered, I followed what best suited my introverted tendencies. I became a detective, first investigating property crimes and then moving to crimes against people. I was a detective for around 10 years, mostly investigating child maltreatment cases and being part of a team investigating major crimes including homicides. I was then promoted to sergeant and experienced life as a patrol sergeant, Internal Affairs sergeant, and finally a training sergeant before retirement. Law enforcement provided opportunities to help someone every day, to change a life and to maybe save a life. I saw, did and experienced things that people should never be exposed to, but with the support of family and friends there was much personal and professional satisfaction as well as thanks from others in my law enforcement career.
How and why did you make the transition from a working police officer to a teacher? As an officer you can retire when you are younger and collect your pension immediately. Although I worked roughly 10 years beyond the retirement threshold, I had to ask myself what I was going to do moving forward. While working at Portland Police Department, I went to USM for my bachelor’s degree in sociology and afterward my master’s degree in higher education. My bachelor’s degree enabled me to teach as an adjunct at Southern Maine Community College. I have been teaching as an adjunct at SMCC since 2009 and continue to do so if its criminal justice program needs me. It is another way for me to stay involved and give back. The transition to LRTC was easy because of the great people who work there. They are willing to help and share, from administrators, teachers, ed techs, all of the support staff and outside agencies that contribute to make LRTC and Lewiston public schools a wonderful place to work.
As someone with real-world experience, how has that informed your approach to teaching, along with what you teach students? My experiences are infused in the curriculum. I tell all my students that our criminal justice class at LRTC is more of a life course with a heavy dose of cops, courts and corrections. We are willing as a class to go off on interesting tangents and explore those things that often revolve around important items in the lives of my students. Many of these things have a connection to the work someone in the criminal justice system does.
What are some of the major points you hope your students take away from your class? I hope my students become a little bit more confident in their lives and find ways to help themselves and others regardless of where their paths take them, knowing that they will have someone who will be upfront with them even if it is hard to hear. Secondly, those who work in the criminal justice system are just people — no one is perfect. Finally, we are all different and it is a wonderful thing.
Even if students do not go on to a career in law enforcement, what can students gain from the class? Most of my students do not go into professions in the criminal justice system in any form. I have students who want to be lawyers, social workers, teachers, nurses or are just interested in the criminal justice system. Some even hate the criminal justice system and want to change it. Others are still exploring their options. As long as the expectations are clear and we treat each other with respect, all are welcome. Besides earning their CPR and basic first aid certificate, six college credits and more, students gain a better understanding of their world from those who they interact with. It makes them more prepared to forge their future. I am also blessed by having some students enter the criminal justice profession and I hope I played a tiny part in their choice of career.