From greenhouses to guitars, Dave and Sandy Perloff understand what motivates Maine students to learn: inspiring, innovative teachers, and hands-on involvement.

For the past 15 years the Perloffs have shared over $1 million in grants with more than 500 K-12 teachers in Maine. Their FastTrack Grant Program, which is now accepting applications, has funded STEM, arts, reading, ecology, and physical education programs. 

Recipients of their STEM4ME grants often work in small teams to create real-world solutions, lessons that become even more critical as the state’s need for STEM workers continues to grow. A recent report from Maine’s Department of Labor estimates the number of science- and technology-related jobs is expected to rise 6.5 percent from 2012 to 2022 – nearly three times the rate for all occupations. The state is now considering a plan to offer interest-free loans to students who study science or technology.

The couple also see the fun in learning: They visit every Maine project twice a year to watch their grants in action. Their eyes light up as they describe students working to restore Maine’s bluebird population, creating a greenhouse, or even building their own guitars. 

Projects they fund “should be something a teacher always wanted to do,” says Sandy. And – one teacher at a time – the Perloffs empower educators to help that happen.

Photo: Noble High School senior Mike Lavigne shows Sandy and Dave Perloff some guitars in different stages of completion. The Perloffs provided grants to fund the class at the North Berwick school and hundreds of other Maine projects. Photo by John Patriquin, courtesy Portland Press Herald