WEBINAR: Introductory Training on Newcomer Multilingual Learners for All Teachers

On June 6th from 3:00 – 4:30pm, join April Perkins, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) & Bilingual Programs Specialist at the Maine Department of Education (DOE), and Sheanna Zimmermann, ESOL Director for South Portland School Department, to learn strategies for ensuring that newcomers and their families feel welcome and supported at school.

The session will focus on establishing a school culture of inclusion, as well as instructional and socioemotional tools to empower all teachers to meet the unique needs of these students and their families. While this training is primarily geared towards teachers who may not have experience with newcomers, all teachers are welcome.

Register here by June 3rd. This session will be recorded and available on the Maine DOE YouTube Channel, and contact hours will also be available. Contact April at april.perkins@maine.gov if you have any questions.

Keeping Up with a Fast Growing Multilingual Learner Population: Merrymeeting’s Story

This article was written by Paul Elisha, Academic Counselor for Merrymeeting Adult Education.

When I first started working as the Academic Counselor at Merrymeeting Adult Education in 2010, our Multilingual Learner (formerly referred to as English Language Learner [ELL] or English Learner [EL]) program consisted of one English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class, one teacher, and about eight students. For the next nine years, our ESOL program fluctuated from 5 to 20 students, one to three teachers, and one to three classes. So in the fall of 2019, when I received a call from Carol Kalajainen of the Midcoast New Mainers Group saying they had about 30 asylum seekers coming to the Brunswick area who were in need of ESOL classes, I panicked inside.

Up until that phone call with Carol, I had never heard of the Midcoast New Mainers Group. I quickly discovered that they are a non-profit, faith-based group of volunteers committed to helping New Mainers get the resources and support they need to reach sustainability and establish a sense of belonging in the local community. They were eager to get the wave of asylum seekers coming to the Brunswick area connected with free English classes as soon as possible. Our first problem, however, was that none of the asylum seekers had reliable transportation to get to our classes in Topsham or Bath. When it became evident that a majority of them were moving into housing on the Brunswick Landing near the Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) Midcoast Campus, we reached out to our partners over there. They graciously provided free classroom space in the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) Brunswick Center.

We immediately utilized the space at UMA Brunswick to do intakes, advising, CASAS testing, and classes with students. The location was ideal, but within a couple of weeks we found ourselves on the brink of being removed from campus due to one big issue: noise control. The asylum seeking families had no childcare set up, so they were bringing their young toddlers and babies to class. While UMA and SMCC were conducting college classes in the building, little kids were running around playing and yelling to each other in the lobby and moms were consoling screaming babies in the hallways.

Carol and I brainstormed the situation and the Midcoast New Mainers Group stepped in to help these families access childcare at the local Head Start and other daycares in the area. Carol and I remained in constant communication to ensure, to the best of our abilities, that classes were held during times that families had access to childcare.

As an additional resource, we were able to utilize Midcoast Literacy, a non-profit organization in Bath that provides free literacy education. Midcoast Literacy connected all of our new Multilingual Learner students with an English tutor. Arrangements were made for tutors and students to meet on the SMCC Midcoast Campus or at Curtis Memorial Library to ensure that tutoring sessions were within walking distance from where most of the asylum seekers lived.

Just as it seemed we were starting to get our feet under us in being able to serve a Multilingual Learner population three times bigger than what we were used to, COVID-19 hit. With an amazing display of flexibility, patience, and creativity, our ESOL teachers dove into conducting their classes over Zoom. The Midcoast New Mainers Group worked with both Midcoast Literacy and Bowdoin College to provide refurbished computers, laptops or tablets/iPADS to asylum seekers for them to connect with our classes and their Midcoast Literacy tutors online.

Over time, as things gradually opened back up from the pandemic, Kelli Park, one of our ESOL teachers, helped get our Multilingual Learner families outside and connected to the community. She partnered with the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust to hold outdoor potlucks and community gatherings on the Brunswick Landing (conveniently located near where a lot of our Multilingual Learner families live). This has encouraged a lot of our Multilingual Learner students to dive into learning English by immersion as they share conversation, food, music and games with each other.

As more asylum seeking families and refugees from Afghanistan move into the Brunswick area, Merrymeeting Adult Education continues to seek ways that we can grow our ESOL programming. We currently offer 10 different ESOL classes from the Beginner to Advanced levels (three of them are in-person at the UMA Brunswick Center and seven are on Zoom). We hold two in-person Accent classes at our Topsham center for Intermediate and Advanced Multilingual Learner students. Plus, we are running for the first time this April a Multilingual Learner Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Preparation Course and Northstar Digital Literacy Course for Intermediate and Advanced Multilingual Learner students interested in becoming a CNA and/or enhancing their computer skills for the workforce.

Now, in addition to having seven ESOL teachers on staff, we have also hired an interpreter, Benedita Kakhuba, who is fluent in English, Portuguese, French, Lingala and Spanish. Benedita and her family are asylum seekers from Angola. Back in the 20-21 school year, she went through our Maine College & Career Access Program to gain acceptance into Southern Maine Community College, where she currently attends part-time. As Benedita takes classes toward a degree in Business Administration, she works for us and for the Immigration Resource Center of Maine as their Housing Assistance Specialist to provide language assistance and cultural brokering services for New Mainers applying for the emergency rental assistance program. Her linguistic skills and passion for helping New Mainers gain opportunities to increase their English language skills has greatly enhanced our ESOL programming.

The Midcoast New Mainers Group continues to support our Multilingual Learner students by coordinating volunteer transportation to and from our Topsham and Bath locations for intakes, academic advising, and CASAS testing appointments. In addition, the Midcoast New Mainers Group has provided funds for our Multilingual Learner students to have their high school diplomas officially translated into English, which is often the first step toward accessing college or specific job opportunities. Plus, they have partnered with a dozen or so businesses in the Brunswick area who are committed to hiring New Mainers as soon as they receive their work permits.

When I received that initial call from Carol Kalajainen back in 2019, I had no idea how we were going to meet the academic needs of a Multilingual Learner population which was three times the size of what we were used to. I did not feel ready. Looking back, I realize that if it wasn’t for the Midcoast New Mainers Group, Midcoast Literacy, UMA Brunswick, SMCC, Curtis Memorial Library, Bowdoin College, Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, the many businesses in our area committed to providing jobs for our Multilingual Learner students, and the flexibility, ingenuity, hard work and passion of the teachers and staff at Merrymeeting Adult Education, we would not be where we are today. I have learned that it is important to tap into every resource our community has to offer when serving our students. I’m incredibly grateful for all of our local partners and community members who have stepped up to help our New Mainers feel welcome and at home here in Brunswick, Maine.

Honoring and Celebrating All Languages Spoken By Maine Students With the Shift to Multilingual Learners Terminology

Maine is home to students and families who speak a multitude of different languages in their homes and communities. Recognizing and celebrating the linguistic and cultural assets they bring starts with using asset-based language. That’s why the Maine Department of Education (DOE) is transitioning to the term “multilingual learners” (MLs) to describe bilingual and multilingual students who are in the process of learning English. Formerly referred to as “English learners,” MLs enrich their classrooms and communities in invaluable ways. This shift in terminology reflects the principle that all languages a student speaks are important and honored, as they strive towards acquiring English as an additional language – not as a replacement for their primary/home language(s).

Resources from the Maine DOE will begin to reflect this shift right away, and schools are encouraged to embrace this shift as well. Note that the U.S. Department of Education continues to refer to students as English learners, and this may still appear in resources related to federal programs. Programs that teach English to MLs are referred to as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, and teachers are ESOL teachers or teachers of MLs.

If you have any questions, contact April Perkins, ESOL and Bilingual Programs Specialist, at april.perkins@maine.gov.

Foreign Language Association of Maine Announces Recognition Awards

As part of its work to promote and improve the teaching and study of languages and cultures of the world, the Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) recognizes Maine educators and students annually for their outstanding work in a number of areas including student recognition, leadership, lifetime achievement, and their two teacher of the year awards, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher of the Year and FLAME Teacher of the Year. They recently announced their 2022 award recipients.

FLAME Student Recognition Award

Sam Conner Self is a talented senior at Bangor High School, currently enrolled in AP Spanish: Language & Culture. However, they also study ASL at Bangor High School and German at the University of Maine at Orono. Their academic pursuits after school include Spanish Honor Society, Spanish Club, Math Team, Theater, Civil Rights Club and Young Democrats. Beyond these extracurricular activities, Sam has shown leadership in their roles as: Social Media Director of Students for Gender Equality, Co-president of Q+ Club, and co-organizer of the Maine Youth Power Voter Education Campaign at BHS.

They intend to study psychology with a minor in at least one language in college and envision creating a community center that provides counseling and other services from multilingual psychologists rather than solely relying on interpreters.

Richard Williamson Leadership Award

This award is given to a teacher, administrator, student, or community member for outstanding results in promoting the study of modern and classical languages in their community or region.

Skip Crosby has been a dedicated Spanish teacher in Maine for 29 years at the high school level, with nine years at the college level. His excellence in teaching has been recognized over the years, but especially in 2014 and 2015, as Androscoggin County Teacher of the Year and FLAME World Language Teacher of the Year.

Skip is well known for his dedication to supporting his teaching peers in a variety of ways. He is a true leader by welcoming other teachers and graduate students into his classroom without hesitation. Most significantly, he has coordinated the TCI Maine Conference since 2006. This “Teaching with Comprehensible Input” conference provides meaningful and accessible professional development to teachers across New England by inviting nationally and internationally recognized experts on TPRS and CI.

Sister Solange Bernier Lifetime Achievement Award

This award was named after a well-loved and well respected French teacher, whose career spanned more than six decades. It recognizes the career-long accomplishments of those who are approaching retirement and who have demonstrated excellence in teaching and leadership throughout their careers as modern and classical language teachers.

Susan Dana of Cape Elizabeth Middle School is this year’s recipient. She is a National Board Certified Spanish Teacher who has been a language educator for 39 years, 30 of which have been in Cape Elizabeth. In the late 1990s she started the Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) program in Cape Elizabeth. In 1996 she was the FLAME teacher of the year, and she has been the recipient of numerous grants and scholarships, including a Fulbright Teacher Exchange to Uruguay in 2013. Susan has led service trips through Safe Passage in Guatemala with Cape Elizabeth High School students, and has engaged her students in many social justice projects and endeavors. Her students have participated in events such as Global Collaboration week, Journey North, and connecting with Peace Corps Volunteers. She also helped her students develop community and global connections with projects such as bookmarks for the public library, decorated grocery bags for the supermarket, valentines for hospital patients, pen pals, the Peace Corps’ World Wise School Program, video exchanges with Spanish speaking students, and a “New Mainers: Hear our Story” Program.

English Speakers for Other Languages (ESOL) Teacher of the Year

Farrah Giroux of Westbrook School Department was selected based on her demonstration of leadership in the field of ESOL, both on the board of Northern New England TESOL, serving terms as treasurer, vice president, and president, and locally in her community at Westbrook Middle School where she holds the position of Instructional Leader for the ELL Team. Farrah is a champion for educational equity, promoting an asset-based orientation, high expectations, and equitable opportunities for students learning English. Farrah skillfully leverages the WIDA English Language Development standards to bring principles of equity into practice for herself and the colleagues she supports.

FLAME Teacher of the Year

Each year at its annual conference, the Foreign Language Association of Maine (FLAME) recognizes those who have achieved outstanding results in teaching modern or classical languages.

This year’s recipient is Deb Backman from Cony High School. Deb is not only a fantastic language teacher, but an asset to her school community. Deb has served on the League of Innovative Schools Leadership Team, her District Curriculum Mapping Leadership Team, and was a class advisor for many years. At the state level, Deb has served multiple times as President of the Maine Chapter of American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), Webmaster and Treasurer. Since 2015 she has organized the annual Maine AATG Awards Tea at the Blaine House which recognizes German language students’ achievements, including on the National German Exam. Deb also helps organize an annual student immersion day (Sprachfest), in conjunction with German faculty at Colby College and co-organized several annual week-long K-16 Deutsche Woche in Bar Harbor immersion seminars for educators from the entire US.

She has served on the most recent Steering Committee for the review of the Maine State Learning Results for World Languages and currently serves on the Maine DOE World Language Advisory Council. As a result of Deb’s hard work, Cony High School is one of 13 German Government-designated US PASCH partner schools and serves as a beacon for other German programs. Her students have studied food waste with German entrepreneurs who started a zero packaging store in Berlin, worked with a German technology company who taught students to program mini-computers, and with a German singer/songwriter to write and produce an original song.

To learn more about FLAME’s awards visit their website. For further information, reach out to FLAME.

Webinar Regarding Education and Afghan Newcomers: Keeping the Promise

The U.S. Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) in collaboration with the Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) invites you to a webinar that will provide information about ORR’s process for placing and supporting Afghan refugees in the context of the U.S. educational system.

The webinar will also feature representatives from the Office for Civil Rights, (OCR) and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE). The panelists will discuss how to coordinate resources to provide wrap-around services and offer information about Federal support that will be explained in a forthcoming Dear Colleague Letter.

All state and local education personnel including superintendents, Title III Directors, teachers, and others who are involved in the work of welcoming our Afghan newcomers are invited to join on January 24, 2022, for an engaging and informative session.

Date: January 24, 2022,

Time: 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Register Here