Dion Zizak

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 10.47.47 AMDion began her teaching career at a small, community-oriented charter elementary school in Tucson, Arizona.  Her experiences there gave her a close look at the struggles faced by immigrant and refugee families, as well as the impact that parental involvement, security, and empowerment can have on the success of every child.  She realized that her skills as a literacy educator could be used to help equip immigrant and refugee parents with essential tools they need to create the best possible life for their children.  She moved to San Francisco to pursue an MA in TESOL and is currently teaching and developing curriculum materials for Refugee Transitions, a local non-profit serving the greater Bay Area.

At the Crossroads: Preparing Refugees with Learning Disabilities for the Citizenship Exam

Refugees who are receiving social security benefits because of documented disabilities have a time constraint under which they must pass the citizenship exam, prompting them to enroll in citizenship ESL classes.  However, some of these students face a dual challenge to learning a new language: they have physical or learning disabilities and they are also beginning to learn English at the pre-literacy level.  Pre-literacy is defined here as either coming from a language background with no written form or having never learned to read in any language.  The presenter will share techniques for addressing the needs of pre-literacy level students with learning disabilities through a content-based approach.


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