Maine DOE Hosts First ‘Teachers of Adult Multilingual Summer Institute’ Drawing in Rural Districts Eager to Support New Learners

As the housing crisis felt across Maine has driven some of Maine’s newest multilingual residents out of urban areas and into rural parts of our State, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and Maine’s adult education multilingual learning programs are right there to provide the support they need. 

The first-ever, “Teachers of Adult Multilingual Summer Institute” was held in Sugarloaf and virtually recently. Hosted by Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team and endearingly referred to as, “Camp Sugarloaf,” the gathering featured nationally renowned educator and speaker Jayme Adelson-Goldstein who led a workshop, which took place over the course of the three-day institute, on implementing high-leverage practices and differentiation in virtual and  in-person multilingual classrooms with interactive activities that enabled participants to get to know each other and dig into valuable content and best practices for educating adult learners who are multilingual. 

In addition to Adelson-Goldstein’s full group sessions, the institute also offered various breakout sessions led by educators working in some of Maine’s more urban adult education programs.  

While Rochelle Yanike Hale from Portland Adult Education led a session on “How to Increase Student Writing in a Remote Class,” Virginie Akimana from Portland Adult Education hosted a session on, “Considerations for Working with Adult Multilingual Learners,” and Tekia Cox from Augusta Adult & Community Education hosted participants for a Roundtable Discussion on Orientation for Multilingual Learners. Also offering sessions were Kelli Park from University of Southern Maine (USM)/Merrymeeting Adult Education, Elizabeth Cuccinello DiLalla from RSU 13 Adult & Community Education, Moira Taylor from Portland Adult Education, Lisa Parisio from Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Amy Hatch from Lewiston Adult Education, and Anya Enright from EnGen. 

Members of Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team also hosted various other sessions on everything from CASAS (assessments) to community resources, and the Teaching the Skills That Matter (TSTM) Toolkit. In addition, the institute also provided participants with ample opportunities for networking, relaxing, and communicating and collaborating with each other across the three-day event.    

Meet the Adult Education Team: 

Back row: Kelley Heath- Adult Ed Data/High School Education Coordinator, Amy Hatch-Adult Ed MaineStars Data Entry, Christy Le-Adult Ed Micro-credential Assistant, Tammy Ranger- Director, Workforce Development & Innovative Pathways 

Front row: Megan Dichter- Adult Ed Workforce Development/ESL Coordinator, Amy Poland- Adult Ed Prof Dev/ME College Transition Coordinator, Monique Roy-Director Adult Education 

While this is the first official Summer Institute hosted for Maine’s adult educators, the Maine DOE’s Adult Education Team hopes to plan a summer institute annually each year going forward. 

Seal of Biliteracy Earned by Maine High School Seniors

The Maine Department of Education congratulates 347 Maine high school seniors who are this year’s recipients of the Maine Seal of Biliteracy!

The Seal of Biliteracy recognizes student achievement in language learning. Graduating seniors who are proficient in English and at least one additional language may earn the Seal of Biliteracy by demonstrating their skills on an approved assessment (see eligibility criteria). This award elevates the study of languages and provides students an edge for their college applications and professional careers. Students who attend a University of Maine System campus may also earn college credits.

The Seal of Biliteracy distinction for graduating seniors honors students who have studied world languages in school, students who have spoken English and another language at home and in their communities, and students who have learned English at school. Learning another language is an impressive accomplishment, and the Department commends all multilingual students for their efforts.

We would also like to recognize the incredible work of World Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, who support students in their multilingual journeys. Language educators empower students with linguistic and cultural understanding that will be invaluable to them throughout their personal, academic, and professional lives. Teaching students another language goes beyond grammar and vocabulary – it is truly opening a door to another world and enabling students to explore and experience that world through the power of language!

Congratulations to the Class of 2022 Seal of Biliteracy recipients and their teachers! If your school isn’t yet participating in the Seal of Biliteracy and would like further information, please reach out to April Perkins, ESOL & Bilingual Programs Specialist, at

2022 Participating Schools include:

  • Blue Hill Harbor School
  • Brewer High School
  • Brunswick High School
  • Camden Hills Regional High School
  • Cape Elizabeth High School
  • Caribou High School
  • Casco Bay High School
  • Cony High School
  • Deering High School
  • Falmouth High School
  • Gardiner Area High School
  • Gray-New Gloucester High School
  • Greely High School
  • Hampden Academy
  • Houlton High School
  • Kennebunk High School
  • Lincoln Academy
  • Maranacook Community High School
  • Morse High School
  • Blue High School
  • Noble High School
  • North Yarmouth Academy
  • Orono High School
  • Portland High School
  • Presque Isle High School
  • Scarborough High School
  • South Portland High School
  • Westbrook High School
  • Windham High School
  • Winthrop High School
  • York High School

2022 Seal recipients’ languages include English and:

  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Bulgarian
  • Chinese
  • Dari
  • French
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Latin
  • Lingala
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese

WEBINAR: Registering and Enrolling Refugee and Immigrant Students in Secondary Schools

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is hosting to a webinar where panelists will discuss best practices and resources for facilitating refugee and immigrant students’ transition into U.S. schools, including scheduling considerations, academic evaluations, and options for registering newcomer students who arrive without academic credentials or who do not meet state academic requirements.

The panelists will also discuss models of academic background review and assessment that can be used during newcomer immigrant registration and enrollment to set students on a success trajectory and pathway to graduation.

Aug 12, 2022 02:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

More Information and Register Here

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 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.