Growing Within: A Rural District’s Response to the Need for a Multilingual Learner Educator

Amy Trombley, Sustada Ma, El-Shammah Nsadha, and Ammala Ma

(Pictured: Educator Amy Trombley, with students Sustada Ma, El-Shammah Nsadha, and Ammala Ma)

At the beginning of the 23/24 school year, Limestone Community School was facing a need for an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) educator to meet the federal requirements of newly enrolled students. As the language use survey indicated a need for assessments, Principal Ben Lothrop recognized that while a 660-certified teacher wasn’t necessary on-site in the past, now it was. He first posted a position for a 660-certified educator with no success. In rural communities in Maine, finding a certified multilingual learner educator is often difficult, as it does fall in the US Department of Education’s teacher shortage.

“In rural areas across the state of Maine like Limestone and Aroostook County, we struggle to find qualified regular education teachers, much less anything more specialized like an ESOL teacher. In the past, I’ve had to ‘grow my own,’ and this is no different. It’s a great opportunity for the teacher, our students, and the local area as more and more people with various cultural and language backgrounds are moving into our area.”

The next step was for Lothrop to identify an educator who may want to pursue the emergency certification for 660. Title I teacher, Amy Trombley, jumped at the opportunity. “ESOL is a very rare certification, especially in this rural area of Maine, but it is still very much needed. I have a history of working with multilingual learners before my teaching career and loved the experiences that it brought with it. It is a very rewarding job! My main goal in teaching is to make sure the needs of every single student is met. With this certification, I can ensure needs are met for all demographics and make the education experience for multilingual students is that much more equitable.” Trombley applied for and received emergency 660 certification and then enrolled in the University of Southern Maine in the Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) program with the District’s support. She has also taken advantage of free professional learning offered by the Maine Department of Education (DOE): WIDA webinar series, “Scaffolding Learning through Language.”

The Maine DOE has assisted with technical support throughout the WIDA Screener assessment and implementation of a newly formed ESOL support.  Administrative Letter #27:  Legal Requirements to Provide English Language Acquisition Services to Students who are Multilingual Learners (Revised 6.21.23)  Multilingual Learner guidance can be found here.

At the Maine DOE, we recognize an increased demand for 660 certification specialists in Maine. We are offering a collaborative webinar with Maine DOE ESOL Specialist Jane Armstrong, Certification Coordinator Erin Reinhard, Family Engagement Specialist Melanie Junkins, and the University of Southern Maine TESOL program instructors Dr. Andrea Stairs-Davenport, Dr. Alec Lapidus, and Dr. Melinda Butler. This one hour webinar is designed for administrators and educators in the state who want to learn more about obtaining a 660 certification, the differences in emergency, conditional, and full certification, and a pathway to earn this certification at the University of Southern Maine.

To find out more, register here for the webinar “ESOL 660 Certification Pathway,” on October 27, 2023, from 1-2 pm.

Questions regarding the webinar can be directed to Melanie Junkins (, Maine DOE Family Engagement and Culturally Responsive Specialist.