Language Access Team
Policy IHBEC of the Portland Board of Public Education recognizes the special needs of families who have limited English skills. In order to ensure equal access to public education, the district provides languages access to interpreter and translation services during school hours for family members who have legal access to the student(s) and who need such services for school business. The Language Access Team provides such services. You can access these services through the district's HelpDesk system.
"Welcome to this team of talented language and cultural brokers in Portland Public Schools. The Family and Community Engagement Specialists provide outreach, parent/guardian orientation and training, community referral services, and language access support for multilingual families in the Portland Public Schools. I am privileged to work everyday with this team of competent, passionate, dedicated, resourceful, and hardworking professionals led by Maureen Clancy with the assistance from Lan Pham. Every member of this team makes a difference in the lives of students and their families. I am proud to oversee their work and the rest of the Multilingual & Multicultural Center and the Communications staff who are champions and advocates of the district's equity goals."
- Grace Valenzuela, PhD
Meet The Language Access Team
AHMED AL JASIM - Arabic
Ahmed is from Iraq and has been in Portland since 2014. He first worked at Learning Works and Americorps for over 2 years and with Portland Adult Education as an English and Arabic teacher. Ahmed has a degree in Sociology and Urban Planning from Baghdad University. He taught in Iraqi and Libyan universities for more than 16 years before coming to the United States.
BERTHLLEY DESPACHO - Portuguese
Berthley comes from Angola and has a degree in Journalism. He worked for ten years at the Angolan National Television station. He gained fame and recognition in sports and served as a member of the Angolan National Basketball team. In Portland, he is known as Coach "B", working with young ball players at YMCA. He was employed at Learning Works and Spurwink before joining Portland Public Schools.
BETSY PAZ-GYIMESI - Spanish
Betsy originates from Cuba and was an English learner in elementary school. She began her professional career as a registered nurse specializing in pediatric emergency medicine. Betsy also worked as school nurse and case manager in New York City at a school serving children with special needs. She worked as a tutor in California and Ohio before coming to Maine.
EDWARD LABOKE - Acholi
Edward has a B.Ed from the University of Juba in Sudan. He taught Math and English in Sudan before migrating to the U.S. In 2002, he joined PPS as an Ed Tech at Lincoln Middle School. He started his role as a Family & Community Engagement Specialist for the district in 2014. Edward received an MS in Adult and Higher Education from USM in 2011.
ISABELLA BORRERO - Spanish
Isabella holds a BA in Learning Sciences and a BSc in Microbiology and taught for 14 years in Colombia,S.A where she grew up. With the City of Portland she was worked as the Laboratory Director for the Public Health Laboratory; and as a Community Health Outreach (CHOW) in several dental, medical projects for the Latin@x in Greater Portland. Isabella has experience translating and interpreting for Spanish in the medical, scientific, and educational field.
JOSEPHINE BIZIMANA - French, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Swahili
Josephine has a BA degree in English language and Literature from the University of Burundi. She worked as a teacher for 2 years and as an interpreter with the United Nations Peace Keepers in Burundi prior to coming to the U.S. in 2006. In Portland, she has worked as an interpreter for Certified Languages International and a Family & Community Engagement Specialist for Portland Public Schools since 2011.
JULIANA BEAN - Portuguese, Spanish
Juliana holds a BA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from UFRN in Brazil. She has taught English, Spanish, and Portuguese and has worked as an interpreter, translator, and cultural broker at Language Institute in Atlanta, Catholic Charities Maine, and House of Languages. Juliana has interpreting experiences in medical, legal, immigration, education, and business fields and leads workshops for interpretation professionals.
MAHDI ABDULLE - Somali
Mahdi has been a PPS employee for over 15 years. He holds a high school diploma and has taken classes at SMCC, USM, and the University of Georgia. Mahdi also opened a business in Minnesota while he was taking classes at Portland Adult Education. He is happy serving members of the Somali community in his role as Family & Community Engagement Specialist.
MONIQUE MUTUMWINKA - French, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Lingala, Swahili
Monique has a doctorate in Dentistry from the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She worked as a dentist in the Congo and Rwanda for 24 years and taught at a community college in Rwanda for 10 years. Monique has worked in PPS as a Family & Community Engagement Specialist since 2013.
NANA KANJINGA - French, Lingala, Tshiluba
Nana is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has an associates degree in interior decorating from the Academie Des Beaux Arts in Kinshasa and is currently pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education. Prior to working for PPS, Nana worked as an interpreter for House of Languages.
PIRUN SEN - Khmer
Pirun is originally from Cambodia. He has a degree in nursing and worked as a nurse in Cambodia before coming to the U.S. Prior to working for PPS, he worked at Maine Medical Center. Pirun has developed a successful Cambodian Parent Community Advisory Committee and teaches citizenship classes. He also serves in the Maine Coast Guard.
RIHAB AL TOUMA - Arabic
Rihab has a BA in teaching English language from the University of Basra in Iraq. She worked as an English teacher in middle and high schools in Iraq for over 20 years prior to moving to the U.S. in 2016. In Maine, she has worked as an Arabic interpreter at Catholic Charities, International Resource Center, and House of Languages. Rihab's teaching experience is an advantage in her work with PPS.
SHAMSO FARAH - Somali
Shamso arrived in the U.S. in 2000. Prior to the civil war in Somalia, she was completing her studies to be a teacher. She worked as an interpreter/translator for Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) and Opportunity Alliance. She has worked for PPS as a lunch Aide and an Ed Tech before being hired as a Family & Community Engagement Specialist in 2010.
THUY SULLIVAN - Vietnamese
Thuy hails from Vietnam, but has been in Maine since 1995. After graduating from business school in Vietnam, she resumed her studies at USM and received a BA in accounting in 2000. Thuy has served as a treasured volunteer at East End and Longfellow Schools. Thuy has been an interpreter for many years. She also works part time as a Community Health Outreach Worker for the City of Portland.
Meet The Language Access Administrative Team
GRACE VALENZUELA - Executive Director of Communications and Community Partnerships
Born and raised in the Philippines, Grace A. Valenzuela is an educator with specialization in the field of English Language Development. Before moving to Maine, she worked with nongovernmental agencies specializing in international refugee work. She started her long career in Portland Public Schools as a teacher at King Middle School. She has a PhD in Public Policy and Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine.
MAUREEN CLANCY - Language Access Coordinator
Maureen has worked at the Multilingual Center for the past 4 years supervising the work of Family & Community Engagement Specialists in providing language support, cultural brokering, and orientation to multilingual families. Prior to this position, she served as the district's Grant Coordinator to implement NCLB and SIG grants. Maureen earned a BA from UConn in Latin American Studies and an MA in Health Program Management from USM.
HONGLAN PHAM - Secretary
Lan was born and raised in Viet Nam. She has a BA degree in Business English Language from the University of Sociology and Humanities and from Pedagogic College, both in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. She worked as a Middle School Math and Physics teacher for 5 years, and was the Executive Secretary for a Joint-stock Company before arriving in Portland in 2001. She worked as a freelance Vietnamese interpreter and a part time Vietnamese Family & Community Engagement Specialist for PPS. In the last three years, she worked as an Executive Assistant in the Academics department of PPS.