WILTON \u2014 The complexities of coping with a student\u2019s ability to understand his or her second language is not typically the first thought of a classroom teacher. Ask Mary Moran, one of Wilton\u2019s two ELL (English Language Learner) teachers, who works at Cider Mill and Middlebrook schools. \u201cI was a classroom teacher for 20 years,\u201d she said, having worked in Bridgeport at a time when there was a large influx of students from Iran and Iraq, some of whom had absolutely no English. While she did her best in attempting to impart the diverse content and strategies relating to different subject areas, she said it remained an ongoing question whether the students whose first language was not English were really hearing, learning and retaining any of what was being taught. \u201cThey\u2019re sitting in their seats and they knew nothing,\u201d Moran said. \u201cThey had no English\u2026 I always felt bad when I couldn\u2019t reach them.\u201d Her sensitivity to their plight not only compelled her to get an ELL certification, but buoys her passion for helping meet the unique needs of a student population that Wilton \u2014 as well as other towns in the \u201cGroup A\u201d District Reference Group (DRG) \u2014 has seen slowly increasing in recent years. \u201cThe number of students identified as ELL has increased in Weston as compared to previous years,\u201d explained Kenneth Craw, Weston\u2019s superintendent of schools, \u201cenough so that we formally added part-time staffing during our last budget cycle to enhance the level of services provided.\u201d \u201cThe predominant first language for students is Spanish,\u201d he said, though throughout the DRG \u2014 which includes Darien, Easton, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton \u2014 a multitude of languages are sometimes presented. In Westport, for instance, where Spanish is also the predominant language for ELL services, 23 different languages are spoken by the 74 students who have qualified to receive ELL services. \u201cA variety of efforts are used to make our curriculum accessible to ELL students and their parents,\u201d Superintendent of Schools David Abbey said, including computer translations and, when necessary, the engagement of outside translators. \u201cIn a number of situations only one student speaks a particular language,\u201d he said, though that doesn\u2019t necessarily mean they require ELL services, for their English skills may be strong. This is where the assessment process comes in, including direct observation and the state standardized test called the LAS Links Assessment, which is a product of the Data Recognition Corporation and helps flag ELL students. In fact, the identification process has become less stringent, so more students are qualifying for ELL services, sometimes just because English is not the primary language spoken in their home or not their first language learned. \u201cA variety of efforts are used to make our curriculum accessible to ELL students and their parents,\u201d Abbey said. \u201cThese include computer translation of novels and arranging for translators during parent-teacher conferences.\u201d Albanian, Afrikaans, Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, Nepali, Polish, Russian, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Ukranian and Vietnamese are among the languages that crop up in lower Fairfield County. It\u2019s a varied and seemingly wide selection, though perhaps not when you consider there are close to 7,000 distinctly different languages throughout the world, according to the Linguistic Society of America. \u201cWe\u2019ve typically had corporate expats move into town, and in recent years we have increased the number of families choosing to move to New Canaan on their own,\u201d said New Canaan Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi. \u201cThe numbers have trended up over time, and we also have a wider variety of languages,\u201d he said, though again, not all of them require services. \u201cAll of the students in New Canaan are enrolled and attend classes with their age appropriate peers,\u201d he said, and depending on needs, ELL teachers help with everything from conferencing with parents, preparing testing material for students, and creating instructional content appropriate for that student\u2019s learning. \u201cIf we are able to find a teacher or community member that speaks the same language as our families, we use them to provide interpretive services,\u201d Luizzi said. \u201cWe have allocated monies in our budget to hire a translation service as needed in case we are unable to locate someone who speaks a specific language.\u201d \u201cAs of Jan. 27, we have 33 students identified as ELL,\u201d Charles Smith, Wilton\u2019s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said. Spanish is the most prevalent language. \u201cThe current staffing level of two ELL teachers is sufficient to meet the needs of students and comply with CSDE (Connecticut State Department of Education) requirements for ELL services,\u201d he said, with duties including assessments, work on grants, modifications for students and even family support. \u201cWe want to provide them with an equitable education,\u201d said Ellen Murphy\u2019s Wilton\u2019s other ELL teacher, who juggles time between the high school and Miller-Driscoll. During her 15 years she has experienced a number of success stories, as evidenced by the ongoing relationships she has developed with some students and their families, who invite her to graduation ceremonies, bring her special homemade food dishes, and otherwise acknowledge her role in their lives. \u201cI really enjoy the role of welcoming a family to our town and trying to the best of my ability to help them feel like a part of the community,\u201d said Murphy, a parent and longtime resident herself. Thus, she sees her role as combining social work and guidance counseling skills, as well as those of an English teacher. \u201cI have just loved doing this since I started\u2026,\u201d Murphy said. \u201cFeeling like a conduit between the families and the town is very rewarding.\u201d \u201cI get really invested in my kids,\u201d Moran concurred. \u201cI get really passionate about it (and) a lot of times we are the strongest advocates for them.\u201d These days, as strange times have closed school buildings and forced teachers to rethink their methods of delivering instruction, both Murphy and Moran continue to play their key roles in reaching students in Wilton, though from a distance. \u201cWe\u2019re doing the distance learning just like everyone else is doing,\u201d said Moran, who emails lessons through one online program but also engages directly with students through Zoom. \u201cYesterday, I dressed up like Princess Elsa,\u201d said Murphy, who has been drawing on her theatrical skills to create daily videos aimed to inspire her students. \u201cI just try to use a video to hook them in,\u201d she said, noting that through pantomime and theatrics, she\u2019s inspiring their attention and learning, even if English isn\u2019t their native language.