Trilingual leader who oversees translation services at Portland public schools wins national accolades

The trilingual leader who oversees Portland Public Schools’ translation services to help families who speak languages ​​such as Spanish and Somali communicate seamlessly with their children’s schools on Wednesday won national accolades for her leadership .

Marifer Sager, Senior District Language Access Services Manager, ensures that all district-wide written communications are released in the top five non-English languages ​​– Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese , Somali and Russian — and that these missives are clear and culturally appropriate, according to the national education newspaper Education Week, which chose her for the honor.

Sager is constantly thinking of new ways to ensure parents who don’t speak English receive the same information as English-speaking families at the same time, the education newspaper said.

Education Week on Tuesday announced 11 outstanding school district leaders selected for their innovative and effective leadership. The winners were chosen from nearly 350 entries submitted by readers, journalists, school administrator groups and education experts.

Too often, Sager told Education Week, parents who don’t speak English feel like an afterthought, which can lead them to disengage from the school community or be less likely to talk about needs. of their child.

Sager, from Puebla, Mexico, immigrated twice as an adult – first to Canada and then to the United States, where she became a citizen last spring. She speaks Spanish, English and French.

She told the national media that she vividly remembers what it was like to be in a room where she knew people were talking about her, but she didn’t know what they were saying.

“Being at this doctor’s appointment and not being able to understand what is being said about my health and having to trust someone else?” Sager said. “It’s not a nice place, let me tell you.”

–Betsy Hammond; [email protected]; @chalkup

Connie A. Bailey