April Perkins is the current Director of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)/Bilingual Programs & Title III at the Maine Department of Education (DOE). She is also one of four finalists for a prestigious national award. The English Language Fellow Alumni Impact Award “is designed to recognize and celebrate a former Fellow who has continued to use his or her fellowship experiences to positively impact his or her local teaching communities or career in TESOL in the United States post fellowship” (elprograms.org). “The winner with the most reach (likes, shares, comments) across platforms by August 12, 2019, at 5:00 PM EDT, will be selected as the award recipient.” Readers are encouraged to participate by liking, sharing, and commenting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #fellowimpact2019.
But who is April and why is she one of four finalists nationally for this award?
Prior to 2010 April taught an intensive English program at Florida Institute of Technology. A dedicated group of students from Libya inspired April to want to travel to Libya to learn more about its rich linguistic and cultural history. She applied to the English Language Fellows Program and requested Libya as her top choice. Once selected, April was stationed in Tripoli, Libya in 2010. At the Academy of Graduate Studies in Janzour, April worked as a professor of linguistics training future teachers, interpreters, translators, and linguists. At the Academy she formed close professional relationships with her students and colleagues; however, her time in Libya was cut short. Popular uprisings in the neighboring countries of Tunisia and Egypt spread into Libya by February of 2011. Along with hundreds of other Americans, April was forced to evacuate the country. Dictator Muammar Gaddafi was eventually overthrown, but the security situation in Libya continues to be unstable.
“I was heartbroken to leave the place I had fallen in love with, and the many friends and colleagues I came to know during my all-too-brief stay,” April said. Over a year later the Fellows Program reopened the post in Libya and April eagerly anticipated her return. However, only two days before she was scheduled to fly back to Libya, the Benghazi attack resulted in the deaths of several American members of the foreign service.
Though April could not return to Libya, the Fellows Program was able to place her temporarily in Tangier, Morocco, where she taught conversational English to high school students and adults. After leaving Morocco, April spent the next four years in Egypt, where she received a grant through the US Department of State and AMIDEAST. Through this grant, April taught English and trained ESOL teachers for two years at Al-Azhar University. Now a finalist, April looks back at her time abroad.
“Throughout my time in North Africa, about five years in total, I learned invaluable skills that have served me well in my current role at the Maine DOE. Not only did I hone my teaching skills, but I also learned important lessons in cultural humility, intercultural communication, diplomacy, flexibility, and leadership,” April reflected.
“April is the epitome of a leader who has demonstrated the ability to effect change through her collaborative leadership style, her solutions-oriented approach to challenges, and her passion to make a difference in the lives of students learning English in Maine,” said Chelsey Fortin-Trimble, Maine DOE ESEA Federal Programs Director.
During her three years with the Maine Department of Education she has adeptly applied her cultural and leadership skills to co-develop the Maine Seal of Biliteracy, organize and facilitate the first Title III Districts Meeting, and bring together ESOL educators from across the state to share innovative practices and unify along common goals for English learners.
Emily Darby, ESOL and International Student Programs coordinator at the Brunswick School Department had the following to say about April:
April has been an invaluable resource for me as a professional in the ESOL/TESL field. She made huge advancements for Maine’s Department of Education by having current, timely, and relevant statutes, policies, guidelines, and best practices readily available to educators throughout the state. She promptly responds to issues and concerns by having vast knowledge at her fingertips and by diligently researching the tough questions. But what I appreciate the most about April is her thoughtful and sincere approach and passion for English learners, their families, and their futures. She is a true advocate for learners and educators alike. She makes my job much easier, more enjoyable, and more respected. Most importantly, she makes the lives of English learners and their families much easier, more promising, and more personal.
April is a tremendous asset to the ESEA Federal Programs Team. She leads by example, motivates others, and is equally motivated by others, which makes her an ultimate team member. While she flawlessly manages many responsibilities in her current role, she continues to want to refine the ESEA Team’s processes and procedures to ensure that we are providing the best possible support to districts, schools, educators, students, and families.
Traveling abroad into extraordinary circumstances prepared April to expertly support ESOL education in Maine. Her hard work is transforming a fundamental educational experience for thousands of students in our state, to say nothing of the countless students April influenced abroad. As Carlos Gómez, Director of Language Development at Portland Public Schools puts it, “In short, April is a professional, an all-star, and an incredibly dedicated public servant!” These are only a few of the reasons April is among the four finalists for The English Language Fellow Alumni Impact Award. Regardless of whether April wins the award, she has awarded the state of Maine with trailblazing projects and the DOE eagerly anticipates her next move.