Maine DOE Hosts Second Annual, “Supporting Adult Multilingual Learners Summer Institute” 

The annual “Supporting Adult Multilingual Learners with their Educational and Career Pathways Summer Institute” was held at Sugarloaf from July 10th – 12th and brought together adult multilingual educators, directors, advisors, and other interested stakeholders from across the State of Maine. This year’s theme was “Building Bridges” and encouraged participants to seek connection across programs and inside the classroom.

This is the second year Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team has hosted the Summer Institute, also affectionately known as “Camp Sugarloaf.” Leaders of the institute worked to empower adult education professionals to support their students by increasing empathy and efficiency in four areas of growth: 1) Cultural Competence and Humility; 2) Overcoming Barriers to Education and Employment; 3) Teaching Practices that Reach All Learners; and 4) Workforce Development. Over the course of three days, participants were able to increase network connections and resources and focus on implementing best practices back into their own programs and community organizations.

This year, around 80 participants attended nearly doubling in size from the previous year – and included 17 presentations, two whole group workshops, a workforce development panel, and a series of networking activities such as learning Kinyarwanda during breakfast, yoga, board game night, movie night, arts and craft night, and more.

The event was kicked off by Kelli Park, University of Southern Maine/Merrymeeting Adult Education teacher, who encouraged participants to consider best practices to increase Cultural Competence and Humility in the classroom. Other sessions included, “Integrating Technology at Every Level” by Lewiston Adult Education Instructors Melanie North and Jen Brown, “Understanding Immigration Law Challenges that Affect Multilingual Learners and Immigrants” by Michelle Gentry (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project Senior Asylum Program), “Language and Identity Connections Across Cultures and Contexts” by Sarah Wagner (Frederick Community College Academic Advisor), “Mapping Resources in Your Community: MLL Edition” by Jeanne MacDonald-Johnson (Noble Adult & Community Education Assistant Director, Hub 9 MCCA Coordinator), and more.

Participants (or rather, Campers) were encouraged to embrace the spirit of personal growth, learning, and development during the three-day long event. Participant and Workforce Development Panel member Jennifer Tiner commented that Camp Sugarloaf helped her “make connections with other programs and staff to improve and refine [her] own practices.” “It’s an opportunity,” said Joseph Catalano, Workforce Development Panel member, “to think outside the box to solve problems.”

Presenter Jen Brown remarked that “the amount of fun stuff to process and connect, to be creative and have fun together” was one of the highlights of the institute. It allowed a structure to meet people and to ignite similar passions and, as presenter Briana Bizier later commented, understand that, as educators, “we’re all facing the same challenges. You feel like you’re alone sometimes.” Camp Sugarloaf gave educators a sense of community and a way to bring some of the most passionate educators across the state together to solve challenges creatively and collaboratively. “It feels like connecting together as people – authentically – rather than professionals” observed participant, Tekia Cox.

Back Row: Steven Airoldi, Lana Sawyer, David McDonough, Kelley Heath, Mike Emery Front Row: Cora Saddler, Amy Poland, Megan Dichter, Amy Hatch, Christy Le
Meet the Maine DOE Adult Ed Team – Back Row: Steven Airoldi, Lana Sawyer, David McDonough, Kelley Heath, Mike Emery and Front Row: Cora Saddler, Amy Poland, Megan Dichter, Amy Hatch, Christy Le