PeopleNot just a matter of ABCBy DENISE M. BARAN–UNLANDEmailFollowSept. 9, 2017Photo providedCaptionAt Troy, 1 in every 5 preschool students has a language other than English in the home, Maxey said. These include Polish, Vietnamese and Chinese, as well as many less familiar languages. When people come to the U.S., they often want to drop the "home language." But Maxey – a former literacy adviser for a national language in Cameroon, Africa – isn't a fan of that, either inside or outside the classroom. In fact, Maxey wants to support families in using both English and their native tongue. "That's the one that speaks to their hearts and the other connections they have," Maxey said.Photo providedCaptionMaxey understands both sides of the linguistic coin. Her first assignment out of college, from 1985 to 1986, was teaching missionary children at an American school in Cameroon. Her students came from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the U.S. and Canada. She did this on purpose. "I had felt God's calling to use my gifts and talents someplace in the world, and I was open to going in a lot of different areas," Maxey said. Being open to this call blessed Maxey, too.Photo providedCaption"I was in a French-speaking part of the country, and I wanted to be able to communicate more with the people in the community," Maxey said. "So I went back to school, which is where I met my husband. He was already on track to do mission work, and we just decided together once we were married that we would do this work together." James Maxey already had an interest in linguistics and transcribing language; Pam's field of study was elementary education; As a couple, they focused on Cameroon. "The church of Cameroon contacted him and asked for someone to come and work in this language to help develop some material for the church, including the New Testament," Pam said. "But we also did other things." (Above, Pam Maxey and her husband, James Maxey, are seen at the Vuté New Testament dedication in 2007 in Yoko, Cameroon).Photo providedCaptionThe Maxeys created the first dictionary in the Cameroon language, translated some books and helped develop other reading material for this former oral language, Pam said. "It's only been written down for 25 years," Pam said. Cameroon also was home to the Maxeys for about 15 years until 2003, when they returned to the U.S. when their four children were ages 7, 9, 12 and 14, Pam said.Photo providedCaption"When we first moved there in 1991, the village did not have any running water or electricity," Pam said. "It was very quiet. We spent a lot of time visiting with the neighbors, just sitting with people. One of the things most striking for me was how relational people were there, how important it was just to spend time sitting with people and talking, something that I carried through my whole life, and a part of what I want to bring to Troy, the importance of relationships." While in Cameroon, Pam home-schooled her children because they were living in a very small village, but three times a year for three weeks at a time, the Maxey family went to the capital city to meet with other expatriate families. Pam said it was hard at first, living far away from family and friends. But over time, they met people who became "like family." She also gained firsthand knowledge of "being a language learner."Photo providedCaption"I had to learn not only French, which my husband and I spent a little over a year in Brussels, Belgium learning," Pam said, "but being a language learner and living with people who spoke three to six languages sometimes, I understood the importance of having a mother tongue. I always likened it to, if you're going to say, 'I love you,' say it in the language most important to me." Once back in the U.S., Pam, who has a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from North Central College in Naperville, decided to focus her career on the importance of reading and writing and how to provide support for both. "That's partly why I came back to early education," Pam said. "I would like to impact families and students in understanding how important these really foundational skills are for future school success." What is the best way to say, "I love you?" In the language most important to the person, said Pamela Maxey, Troy School District 30-C's new director of early childhood education. And what language is that? Well, it depends.