MEDIA RELEASE: World Language & ESOL Teachers of the Year Announced by FLAME

The Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) honored award recipients at a virtual conference held recently including Maine’s 2021 World Language Teacher of the Year, Maine’s 2021 ESOL Teacher of the Year, and the Student Recognition Award.

Julie Speno
Julie Speno

Maine’s 2021 World Language Teacher of the Year is Julie Speno, a Spanish teacher at Camden-Rockport Elementary School. Julie has taught Spanish for more than 25 years and currently teaches elementary Spanish to K-4th grade students. In addition to teaching, Julie has presented over 200 hours of professional development at FLAME and many other conferences about teaching languages in elementary schools. Julie’s session “Calm in the Classroom” was chosen Best of FLAME 2019 and she was the keynote speaker at the NNELL (National Network for Early Language Learning) summer institute. Julie is especially well-known as the creator and illustrator of El Mundo de Pepita, providing resources for teaching elementary languages to teachers across the country.

The World Language Teacher of the Year award honors a Maine educator who has achieved outstanding results in teaching modern or classical languages. Other nominees for the award were: Traci Sorti, RSU 29; Jonna Bouré, Caribou High School; and Deb Backman, Cony High School.

The Maine English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher of the Year award was also presented this year for the first time. The new award is co-sponsored by FLAME and the Maine Department of Education and honors outstanding ESOL educators in Maine.

Elena Sullivan
Elena Sullivan

This year’s ESOL Teacher of the Year is Elena Sullivan. Elena currently coordinates Augusta’s K-12 ESOL program and teaches at Cony Middle/High School. She has dedicated 31 years to teaching, both as a Spanish teacher and as an ESOL teacher. Elena’s leadership is evident in her willingness to serve her community and advocate fiercely for language education at the state level as a member of the FLAME Board and incoming president and at the national level in Washington through the Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies. She has forged strong connections with the families of her students, supporting them as they transition to life in Augusta. Focused on equity for English learners, Elena works closely with content area teachers to ensure they are equipped with effective ESOL strategies.

Tommaso Wheeler
Tommaso Wheeler

In addition to FLAME’s Teacher of the Year Awards, they also presented the Student Recognition Award to Thomas Wheeler, a student at Orono High School. Thomas is an exceptional student of both French and Spanish. He jumped into French III as an 8th grader, earned his Maine Seal of Biliteracy in French in 10th grade, and won a silver medal in the Grand Concours, ranking 8th nationally. After completing all possible French courses, Thomas then moved to Spanish. He has already earned a silver medal on the National Spanish Exam and hopes to qualify for Maine’s Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish too. Thomas has a heart for service as well, most notably volunteering with CISV (formerly known as Children’s International Summer Villages), a youth organization to develop peace around the world.

The Maine Department of Education in joins FLAME in honoring the hard work and dedication of these amazing honorees.

For more information about FLAME or the awards, please visit:

Visiting Teachers from Spain Program

Is your school anticipating difficulty in securing a licensed Spanish teacher for the 2020-2021 school year or beyond? Do you want to expose your students to a native speaker and cultural expert? Are you trying to figure out how to staff a Spanish immersion program? Then the Visiting Teacher from Spain Program may be just the answer!

Maine’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education of Spain was created to promote strong cross-cultural ties between the citizens of Maine and the people of Spain and to help address the uneven distribution of qualified instructors of Spanish in our state. Under this agreement, educators from Spain can be brought to teach in Maine schools for a period of up to three years, (a two-year extension may be possible after the third year), depending on the availability of each individual teacher, his or her willingness to stay for an extended period, and the school districts’ interest in extending their visiting teachers’ contracts beyond the initial year.

Visiting International Teachers are licensed to teach in Maine while holding the cultural exchange status described above.

The process of securing a Visiting Teacher from Spain is comprised of a few simple steps. An interested school or public district must first determine that they have a guaranteed position. Teachers on J-1 visas cannot be procured for openings that are uncertain or subject to elimination or change. Next, a detailed application must be completed and signed. New schools or districts also must sign a program contract, indicating a commitment to abide by all of the program’s requirements.

Both documents must be submitted together to Maine DOE by April 15, 2021. Maine DOE representatives will conduct remote interviews with Spanish teachers and select a pool of highly qualified candidates whose skills and backgrounds may fit the needs of Maine schools. The next step is to put their visiting teachers under contract in accordance with any local bargaining unit agreements. Visiting teachers must receive the same salary and benefits that any other teacher would receive, based on their educational attainment and years of experience. Visiting teachers arrive in Maine in mid-August and undergo an intensive pre-service orientation provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Maine DOE prior to their arrival in their Maine communities.

Participation by the visiting educator in a strong, year-long novice teacher mentoring program in his or her school or district is a requirement for securing a teacher through this program. The school or district also should find a host family for the first one to two weeks that the visiting teacher is in the community and be willing to assist the teacher with all aspects of getting settled. Again, the application deadline is April 15, 2021. Please secure the approval of your local board of education/sponsor to hire a teacher from Spain before the April 15th deadline.

See the 2021 program brochure for more details.

If you have any questions, please contact April Perkins or Manuel Collazo:

April Perkins
World Languages & ESOL/Bilingual Programs Specialist
Maine Department of Education
23 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
Cell: (207)441-9043

Manuel Collazo
Education Advisor
Embassy of Spain, Education Office
General Consulate of Spain in Boston
31 Saint James Avenue, Suite 905 Boston, MA 02116-3606
Phone: 617 678 5920
Skype: manuel.collazo_educacion

Mt. Ararat High School French Teacher Given International Recognition 

An impressive honor has been bestowed upon deserving Maine educator Nathalie Gorey, a French teacher at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham. For her many years of leadership and commitment to promoting French language and culture through education, Nathalie has been named a Chevalier-Knight- in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (French for “Order of Academic Palms”). 

“It really came as a surprise,” said Nathalie after finding out that she had been recommended for the award by the French Consul’s staff in Boston, who know her work as an advocate and a teacher of French language and culture.

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques,  originally established in 1808 by Emperor Napoleon, is an Order of Chivalry of France bestowed by the French Republic to academics and cultural and educational figures. The recognition honors major contributions to French national education and culture by French expatriates who expand French culture throughout the rest of the world.

Born and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, and France, Nathalie’s heritage is one of the most influential factors in her desire to share the French language and culture with students. She got her first taste for teaching French during the last year of earning her Master’s degree, when she  travelled abroad from the University of Angers, France to the University of Limerick, Ireland and worked a part-time job at the local Alliance Française, an after-school program where she taught French to Irish kids.

“I love sharing my native language with students, a language which makes up a third of the English language,” said Nathalie. “I went to school studying three foreign languages, so I know how valuable it is to learn and communicate in a second language and discover other cultures.”

After returning to France and graduating, she took a rare opportunity through a partnership between her university in France and the University of Maine System to travel to Maine and spend a year as a teaching assistant at the University of Maine at Machias (UMM), where she helped start and grow a vibrant French program while immersing herself in American and Maine life. 

What started out as a one-year assignment turned into a successful professional choice that developed into a long-term teaching career, and prompted her to start a family and relocate to Maine permanently.

“I am passionate about teaching about the Francophone world, opening students’ minds to other lands and cultures,” said Nathalie. “That is what is great about teaching a language – you get to also teach geography, history, art, literature, music, literature, and cooking,” she added. 

Nathalie has nearly three decades of French teaching under her belt at both UMM and UMA, and through other secondary French teaching positions in Maine, including her current position at Mt. Ararat High School.

“Some rewarding aspects have been seeing students go on with French studies in college, even become a French teacher as a career,” explained Nathalie. “ Or teaching about the Acadian history in Maine and seeing my students understand the background of their own ancestors!”. And she added, “Taking students on trips to Quebec or France is also very rewarding, seeing the kids applying their skills and making those connections to what they have been learning in class, with the language and culture”.

 Outside of school, she is the Maine chapter president of the AATF (American Association of Teachers of French), representing Maine teachers through their professional organization. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Alliance Française du Maine  as their pedagogical coordinator, and advises them on their cultural events among other things. Nathalie has also been very active in the arrival and settling of French-speaking African immigrants in Maine over the past four years, serving as the French translator for the Maine-based African newspaper Amjambo Africa!.

Metal “I feel like Maine is the perfect place to also make connections, with the Franco-American heritage and the renaissance of French thanks to the African immigrants,” said Nathalie.

Plans for a formal recognition event and ceremony are in the works for this coming fall, following COVID-19 safety measures. In the meantime, Nathalie has received an official letter of recognition from the French Embassy and a medal honoring her lifetime efforts to promote French culture and language all over the world. 

The Maine Department of Education congratulates Nathalie Gorey for her tireless efforts as a world language educator, as an advocate for French culture, language and teachers, and for this well-deserved, prestigious award honoring her hard work and continued advocacy.

Opportunity for Partnerships with French Schools – Deadline 3/31/21

The Maine Department of Education is excited to announce an opportunity for middle and high school teachers to participate in cross-cultural partnerships with schools in France. This opportunity has been made possible through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Académie de Nantes, the governmental body overseeing education in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

The MOU aims to strengthen connections between Maine and France and improve the teaching of English and French, allowing educators and students to benefit from increased understanding and cooperation between the two cultures. Teachers from all content areas, not only French teachers, are welcome to apply. Schools will be partnered based on shared objectives and interests.

Schools that engage in partnerships will participate in joint learning projects with their French-school colleagues. A group of students within one class, a whole class, or multiple classes of students may be involved. Projects can focus on virtually any topic related to the curricula of the two schools (for example: school life and daily routines, natural environment, celebrations, cooking and culinary traditions, sustainable development policies, etc.). Students will demonstrate their learning through artifacts such as letters, emails, drawing, blog posts, video/audio recordings, essays, articles, or other creative means.

Applications are due by 3/31/21. Click here to apply. Partnerships will be confirmed by 5/31/21 so that initial contact can be made and schools may begin planning their projects for the fall. Note that participating in a partnership is a commitment, and our partner schools in France are eager to be matched with Maine schools that are willing and able to actively engage in collaborative teaching and learning. Partnerships may last indefinitely, with the willingness of both schools.

If you have any questions, please contact April Perkins, World Languages & ESOL/Bilingual Programs Specialist, at



Maine Educator Selected by U.S. Department of State for Prestigious English Language Specialist Project

The U.S. Department of State announced the selection of Maine educator Karina Escajeda of Maine for a five-month English Language Specialist project focusing on K4/K5 curriculum design and materials development for a new English immersion initiative in Curacao. She is hosted by a partnership between the Regional English Language Office in Panama, the US Embassy in Curaçao, and the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce. This project will involve researching and drafting curriculum by incorporating local knowledge and curriculum understanding from other countries and best practices given the goals of Curaçao. Escajeda is part of a select group, as her project is one of 150 that the English Language Specialist Program supports each year.

Escajeda is a K-12 ESOL educational consultant with over 20 years of experience teaching, training, presenting, administrating, designing curriculum, and writing reports for K-12 public and private schools in domestic and international environments.  She earned a BA in formal linguistics and Spanish at the University of Southern Maine, TESOL at UCLA, K-12 teacher certification at CSU East Bay, and an MA and administrative credential in K-12 Educational Administration and Leadership at CSU Bakersfield.  She also holds certifications in K-12 ESOL, K-12 Literacy, and K-12 Spanish. She received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching fellowship to Greece in 2019-2020 to study community-based refugee integration initiatives. She is the program director for Capital Area New Mainers Project, a non-profit in central Maine that supports immigrants and provides educational resources to the broader community.

The English Language Specialist Program is the premier opportunity for leaders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad. Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, English Language Specialists work directly with local teacher trainers, educational leaders, and ministry of education officials to exchange knowledge, build capacity, and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions, and communities in the United States and overseas.

Since 1991, the English Language Specialist Program has supported in-country, virtual, and mixed projects in which hundreds of TESOL scholars and educators promote English language learning, enhance English teaching capacity, and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural exchange. During their projects, English Language Specialists may conduct intensive teacher training, advise ministries of education or participate in high-level educational consultations, and offer plenary presentations at regional, national or international TESOL conferences. These projects are challenging and those selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL community. In return, the program provides professional development opportunities to help participants experience different cultures and build skills that can greatly enhance their TESOL careers at home.

English Language Specialists are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The Specialist Program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.

For further information about the English Language Specialist Program or the U.S. Department of State, please visit, contact us by telephone at 202-632-6452, or e-mail