June Wabanaki Conference Pays Tribute to 20th Anniversary of LD 291

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) hosted close to 100 educators on Saturday, June 12th for a morning-long virtual recognition event that paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the signing of LD 291, a requirement for the teaching of Wabanaki history and culture in Maine classrooms.

“While we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done, it was important to recognize that 20 years ago this important legislation was signed,” said Joe Schmidt, Maine DOE Coordinator of Secondary Learning and Social Studies Specialist. Schmidt helped plan the June conference. “We carefully planned this event to both look to the past, recognizing how we got here, and to the present and future by providing meaningful resources to support relevant, robust, and inclusive education for our students here in Maine.”

The conference opened with a video message from Governor Janet T. Mills, remarks from Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin, and a keynote by LD 291 legislative sponsor, Honorable Donna Loring and featured three strands of virtual, synchronous professional learning opportunities:

Opening Remarks: Video Message from Governor Mills
View Message 
Commissioner Makin & Honorable Donna Loring
View Recording

Strand 1 – Wabanaki People and Culture:

Intro to MicMac Language
Presenter: John Dennis
View Recording
Maine Indian Policy History, Racism, and the Future of Wabanaki Tribal Sovereignty
Presenter: Darren Ranco
View Recording
Wabanaki Diplomacy and LD 291: Storying Protocols as Political Will
Presenter: Nolan Altvater
View Recording
Strand 2 – Classroom Resources: Wabanaki Stories in Your Secondary Classroom
Presenter: Margo Lukens & Ashton Carmichael
View Recording
Wabanaki Studies in the Elementary classroom
Presenter: Brianne & Kaya Lolar
View Recording
Resources to extend knowledge of Wabanaki Culture and History
Presenter: Melanie Brown
View Recording
Strand 3 – Decolonization: Towards Decolonizing Education: Settler Colonialism and Empire Building in the Classroom
Presenter: Starr Kelly
View Recording
Equity, Decolonization, Anti-Racism and Wabanaki Studies: Portland Public Schools’ Journey to Fulfill the 2001 Wabanaki Studies Law
Presenter: Fiona Hopper
View Recording
Decolonial Mirrors & Shifting the Gaze to Anti-Racist Education
Presenter: Rebecca Sockbeson
View Recording

Further resources from each of the presentations are available on the 2021 Wabanaki Conference webpage. The webpage also features a video message from Senator Angus King recognizing the importance the 20th anniversary of L.D. 291 and the integration of Wabanaki history and culture in Maine education.

The Maine DOE has also recently collaborated with UMaine and other state organizations on a grant to support enhanced access, utilization of Wabanaki resources and provided interactive workshops hosted by Wabanaki REACH, in addition to many other professional learning opportunities offered by Department specialists and partners throughout the past several years to assist and support schools across Maine in understanding L.D. 291 and integrating Wabanaki culture and history into education programming.

Further Wabanaki education resources and contacts can be found on the Maine Department of Education Maine Native Studies Resources webpage

We look forward to working with schools, tribes, and education partners throughout Maine to expand these important efforts. For more information or to make a connection with the Maine DOE, reach out to Joe Schmidt at Joe.Schmidt@maine.gov.

New Memorandum of Understanding will Promote German Language and Cultural Education in Maine

On May 27th the Maine Department of Education hosted a virtual signing ceremony to celebrate a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Goethe-Institut Boston. Deputy Commissioner of Education, Dan Chuhta, and World Languages & ESOL/Bilingual Programs Specialist, April Perkins, welcomed guests from the German Consulate and the Goethe-Institut, as well as Maine educators, to mark the occasion by sharing their thoughts and reflections on German programs in Maine and the new partnership established under the MOU.

Through this MOU, the Department will collaborate with the Goethe-Institut to promote German language and cultural education across the state through a variety of resources, programs, and activities, including:

In her remarks, Consul General Nicole Menzenbach highlighted the global importance of the German language, which is spoken by 130 million people. “German-speaking countries are economic centers within Europe and can provide a wide range of economic opportunities to those who speak the language,” she said. “Language and cultural understanding serve as a means of communication between individuals and as a link between nations. In this sense, we can view this memorandum as an important component of the transatlantic friendship that exists between the US and Germany.”

There are currently German programs in 12 public and private schools across Maine, and the Goethe-Institut has been a long-time resource and partner to them. Deb Backman, German teacher at Cony Middle and High School, expressed her appreciation for their support. “Goethe does a great job bringing the world into the classroom, but also to bring the classroom into the world,” Backman said. Melanie Kyer, German teacher at York High School, and Dr. Arne Koch, professor of German at Colby College, also expressed their enthusiasm about the MOU and the potential of the new partnership between the Goethe-Institut and the Maine Department of Education.

The Department wishes to share its heartfelt thanks to its partners at the German Consulate and Goethe-Institut Boston, as well as the remarkable teachers and students of German across Maine.

If your school or district is interested in participating in any of the opportunities listed above, developing a new German program, or expanding an existing one, please contact April Perkins at april.perkins@maine.gov.

Lyseth Spanish Teacher Wins ‘Teacher of the Year’ Award

José Iván Sabau Torrelo, fifth-grade teacher in Lyseth Elementary School’s Spanish Immersion program, has been selected as Teacher of the Year 2021 by the Ministry of Education, Embassy of Spain. In recognizing Sabau Torrelo, the Ministry of Education cited an “outstanding” mystery-solving gaming project involving multicultural cooperation that he created for his students.

The project, titled Operación Museo, connected Lyseth fifth-graders with students in Spain at Colegio La Salle in Santiago de Compostela, and Colegio Montserrat Fuhem in Madrid. Sabau Torrelo “implemented gamification methodology to develop a mystery-solving story where students became detectives,” the Ministry of Education said. “Using a dynamic, cross-curricular and student-centered approach, students used their artistic and language skills and explored information about Spanish painters, like Miró and others, as well as geography, mathematics, physical education, and culture to solve the case.”

Sabau Torrelo explained that the two-month gaming project began with a message from a “police officer” asking students for help in dismantling a worldwide organization that was stealing famous paintings from museums. “First, they needed to go to the detective academy to get their licenses,” Sabau Torrelo said. “They needed to overcome many different challenges to do that. Once they graduated, they needed to crack codes, learn about painters and use logical thinking and skills to solve six different cases.”

The Ministry of Education praised the video Sabau Torrelo made about the project and also the project’s other aspects. “The visual and technical quality of Operación Museo’s materials is very high and demonstrates the great potential of numerous, valuable educational tools,” the Ministry of Education said. “The project’s elements combined to create a fun, creative, and engaging plot – full of humor and surprises to fuel students’ interest and attention. Mr. Sabau Torrelo’s students will remember Operación Museo forever and the Spanish teaching community will love the opportunity to learn more about this enriching project.”

“I feel honored,” Sabau Torrelo said, regarding the recognition.

Last year, Lyseth Elementary School won the Ministry of Education, Embassy of Spain’s School of the Year 2020 Award in the elementary school category. Lyseth, home of the only public Spanish immersion program in Maine, won for its “outstanding immersion program” and the school’s “enthusiasm and dedication to the Spanish language and culture.”

The immersion program was begun at Lyseth in 2014 with one kindergarten cohort. A new class was added each year. There is now an immersion classroom at each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said, “The Portland Public Schools is very proud of Iván for winning the Teacher of the Year 2021 award. His innovative Operación Museo project exemplifies his dedication to student learning.  Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the United States and biliteracy in Spanish and English makes students attractive to colleges and future employers. We are very grateful to Iván and other staff at Lyseth for making the Spanish Immersion program there such a success.”

Lyseth Principal Lenore Williams said, “Iván has been steadfast in his commitment to ensure learning for his students is both engaging and interactive and connected to real-life experiences. His students are immersed in the target language and culture and they have content taught to them through an integrated teaching approach that unifies the arts, math, science, writing, and geography. “Operacion Museo” embodies Iván’s approach and beliefs about what and how students should experience learning.”

Carlos Gomez, the district’s Director of Language Development, said, “Engaging students is ‘profesor’ Sabau’s superpower!  His creativity and energy help students to learn language while they learn content and culture, making for a rich, memorable and life-changing experience for his students and colleagues at Lyseth.”

Information for this article was provided by Portland Public Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email it to Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

York Middle School French Teacher a Regional Finalist for National NECTFL Teacher of the Year Award

Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (NECTFL) recently announced the finalists for its 2021 Teacher of the Year competition. Among the 8 finalists is Stephanie Carbonneau, York Middle School French teacher and the Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) 2020 World Language Teacher of the Year.

Stephanie Carbonneau has been teaching at York Middle School since 2004. She started teaching in 1997 and taught for 7 years in Massachusetts before returning home to Maine to continue her teaching career closer to where she grew up. She is known for her “Glow and Grow” approach to language learning in a mostly deskless environment that focuses on interactive communicative lessons, using authentic resources. Stephanie is co-creator of a Manie Musicale, now serving 2,000 schools both in the states and internationally. She has also been a regular guest on the podcast “Inspired Proficiency” and believes collegiality makes teachers strong and students stronger. The highlight of her year is the annual student trip to Québec City and witnessing her students take language risks.  Carbonneau’s students regularly medal at the state and national level on the Grand Concours, the National French Exam administered by the American Association of French Teachers.

Her passion for becoming a French teacher came from her Québecois family roots. Her mother spoke French through her childhood and when her grandmother passed away, so did the family’s desire to continue speaking French at home. Yet looking back, the aspiring ballerina knew that French was a part of her and her family’s identity that she didn’t want to let die.

My freshman year of college I had a French professor who was really hard and  he told me during office hours that I would never get above a C in his class because my French was weak and I should probably not sign up for any more courses. That made me mad! I set out to prove him wrong. Because I struggled as a language learner, I knew I could be a sympathetic teacher. I never ever wanted any student to feel badly about learning a language.  I also fell in love with the language, the culture, the people as well as the identity I have as a French speaker. I believe those qualities surpass being an expert at the language itself. 

In my class students begin to realize that language learning helps individuals recognize the value of each person in such a diverse world and asks them to contribute to a better one. Speaking another language makes us better humans. It provides an opportunity to “glow” and “grow.” Much like the feedback I provide my students, language learning provides us a purpose beyond ourselves and highlights the similarities, differences and injustices that exist in the world.  It truly is important to me that these young Mainers can speak French better and can use it for a good purpose such as welcoming new French speaking Mainers and the thousands of French Canadian tourists that visit our state. THIS is the true value of learning a language to me: Finding our voice for social justice, through language and creating a welcoming community. There is a whole world that exists outside our small Maine town and the country we live in.  I want my students to be able to say “I am a Mainer, an American, but I am also part of the world-wide Francophone community. I am a French speaker.” 

The NECTFL regional finalists were recognized on April 26, 2021 at the annual awards ceremony. The event highlighted the exemplary practice of all regional winners as innovative practitioners whose work has inspired students and communities.

The NECTFL region encompasses 13 states from Maine to Virginia and Washington, D.C.. Each state language organization goes through a rigorous selection process to choose its best representative of excellence in world language teaching. Dr. Ashley Warren was selected as the NECTFL 2021 Teacher of the Year and will go on to represent the organization at the national language teacher of the year competition at the ACTFL Convention in November.

I am proud to have represented my state language association that far! The whole process was very introspective, reflective, and humbling. I grew so much as an educator and met a wonderful cohort of other language colleagues from the region I can now call friends. Most importantly, my students will reap the benefits of my reflections.

For more information about NECTFL, please visit their website: www.nectfl.org.


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: http://www.maineforeignlanguage.org/