Lincoln Middle School in Portland will have a new principal for the 2022-2023 school year: Marisa Ayala, an educator with leadership and bilingual teaching experience with the Boston and Chicago public schools.

“We are excited to have Marisa join the Portland Public Schools as leader of Lincoln Middle School,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “We are Maine’s largest and most diverse school district, and our Portland Promise People goal commits us to attracting and retaining the most talented and diverse group of educators. Marisa is an exceptional trilingual candidate whose work as a teacher and leader has centered diverse students in urban settings. I am enthusiastic about the tremendous value she will add to the work at Lincoln Middle School and to the district’s administrative team as a whole.”

Lincoln Middle School serves more than 450 students, of which more than 40 percent are students of color and about 15 percent are English language learner (ELL) students.

Ayala, who is fluent in Spanish and also speaks French, holds a master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard University and also a masters’ degree in bilingual education and as a reading specialist from National Louis University. She received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from DePaul University.

In addition to her current assistant principal position with the Boston Public Schools, Ayala also served as a principal intern with that district. She also worked for the Chicago Public Schools for more than six years, first as a bilingual teacher and then as an ESL/bilingual program coordinator at several schools.

Ayala explained how her background and experience have shaped her as an educator.

“I was born and raised in Chicago and have attended, taught, and led at Chicago Public Schools, which I am fiercely proud of. I come from a family of immigrants, from a collection of underserved neighborhoods, and multiple languages. My experiences both within the school system and outside of it are what has shaped who I am as an educator and who I am as a leader,” Ayala said. “First and foremost, is my belief in equity and anti-racist practices. I believe that all children can learn as long as we are providing the appropriate and necessary support while shaping an environment that is healing, revitalizing, and that is the catalyst for their growth. I also highly believe in educators and am committed to fostering a space where we all feel free to own our learning and take risks in order to provide the most holistic education for our students and the most supportive environment for our families and communities.”

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.