Learning without barriers: Supporting English learners during distance learning

May 21, 2020

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The move to virtual environments for teaching and learning raises many questions about access, including for students whose first language is not English. These students may not have access to the language supports they usually receive during the school day. Non-verbal cues are more limited. And in a time when parents are an essential part of the teaching team, educators may be challenged to communicate with those who speak another language. Educators are seeking guidance and resources about how to support EL students and their families, in this context. Join us and our expert guests to discuss strategies and resources to address just-in-time needs and support all our students during this COVID-19 shutdown.

A snippet of this webinar


Participants will:

  • Examine needs and opportunities for supporting EL students during distance learning;
  • Hear from expert educators and national leaders about how to embed language supports in online learning for all students;
  • Discuss how to maintain continuity of support for long-term impact; and
  • Learn about strategies that make learning more accessible to all students.

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Presentation slides.

Additional resources including comments from attendees.


Crystal Gonzales, Executive Director, English Learners Success Forum
Gonzales collaborates with national experts, organizations, educators, and content developers to increase the supply of quality of K-12 instructional materials that meet the needs of the growing EL population. Previously, as a program officer at the Helmsley Charitable Trust, she collaborated with national K-12 organizations with a focus on teacher professional development, quality instructional materials, and advocacy for underserved communities. In this role, she worked with EL experts to elevate the needs of ELs among grantees and her grantmaking peers. Gonzales began her career as a 4th-grade bilingual teacher in the Houston ISD. She is currently a member of Education Leaders of Color, Latinos for Education, and is a Pahara NextGen fellow. Gonzales holds a master’s in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of New Mexico. She is a proud native New Mexican and currently resides in NYC.

Kia McDaniel, Coordinating Supervisor of Specialty Programs, Prince George’s County Public Schools
McDaniel has dedicated her career to supporting equitable educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students. She received her B.A. in Hearing and Speech Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park and an M.A. in Bilingual Special Education from The George Washington University. She has worked as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, ESOL teacher, instructional specialist, and ESOL instructional supervisor. McDaniel currently oversees specialty programs in a large urban district in Maryland, leading efforts to support advanced programs, environmental science, ESOL, STEM, immersion, and talented and gifted programs.

Renae Skarin, Director of Curriculum Review Process, English Learners Success Forum
Skarin works with leading educational experts to design and implement a process for reviewing and providing feedback to curriculum developers on the strength of supports for ELs. Prior to joining the ELSF, she worked at Understanding Language, Stanford University, where she was a researcher, professional developer, curriculum developer, and project manager for projects specializing in issues of equity and accessibility for diverse learners and has a strong background in second language teaching and teacher education both in the U.S. and abroad. Skarin received a B.A. in English, Literacy Studies from California State University, Long Beach, and an M.A. in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in Educational Linguistics at Stanford University. Skarin lives at home with her 15-year-old activist daughter, Kailani, and her sweet dog Stella.

Carla Flores-Ballesteros, Principal, Allen Jay Elementary, Guilford County (NC) Schools
Flores-Ballesteros has worked with ELLs throughout her career as a teacher and administrator. She is an advocate for social justice and equity in and out of the classroom. For the last three years, the ELLs subgroup has had the highest percentage growth.


Joni Saffari, Teacher, Allen Jay Elementary, Guilford County (NC) Schools
Saffari has been teaching for 23 years. The first 6 years were as a classroom teacher in the Elementary grades. For the last 17 years, Saffari has taught as an ELL teacher at Allen Jay Elementary. Saffari closely collaborates with content area teachers to develop and deliver lessons that support ELLs across grade levels. Saffari also co-teaches with the fifth grade ELA teacher.


Zsaquia Green, 4th-grade English language arts (ELA) teacher, Allen Jay Elementary, Guilford County (NC) Schools
Green is completing her eighth year teaching with experience in first and fourth grade. Green implemented the 3Ls framework in her ELA classroom and closely collaborates with the EL teacher to plan and drive lessons in a co-teaching model.


Crystal Adkins-Pennix, 4th-grade science teacher, Allen Jay Elementary, Guilford County (NC) Schools
Crystal is completing her second year as a teacher with experience in kindergarten, first, and fourth grade. Crystal implemented the 3Ls framework in her classroom to provide more support not only to her EL students but all of them. 


Mayra Hayes, Director of English language learners, Guilford County (NC) Schools



Soledad Lardies-Dunst, English learners coordinator, Guilford County (NC) Schools