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Upcoming Events

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Event Description

Multilingual Special Education Virtual Symposium:

Perspectives and Practices

to Transform Learning Landscapes
May 9 & 10, 2024

Our fourth annual virtual symposium is designed for educators and practitioners who work at the dynamic and complex intersection of multilingual education and special education. This collaborative learning opportunity endeavors to amplify the voices of multilingual learners with special educational needs, while specifically focusing on their learning experiences. Our two day event features dynamic, strength-based, and culturally-sustaining practices that optimize educational opportunities for exceptional multilingual learners. Leading scholars and experienced practitioners interact with participants to present their current work, showcase favorite resources, host breakouts, and discuss their latest ideas and your questions with colleagues. All sessions will be recorded and handouts will be available for participants to access after the close of the symposium.

Featured Speakers
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Dr. María Cioè Peña

Asst. Professor - Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

As a bilingual/biliterate, neurodiverse researcher, María examines the intersections of language, disability, race and education policy. She focuses specifically on Latinx bilingual children with dis/abilities, their families and their ability to access multilingual and inclusive learning spaces within public schools. María's two-time award-winning dissertation focused on the experiences of Spanish-speaking mothers raising emergent bilinguals labeled as disabled. Maria’s work is featured in multiple journals including Urban Review; Education Forum; Bilingual Research Journal; International Journal of Inclusive Education, as well as contributed to multiple edited volumes. Her book, (M)othering Labeled Children: Bilingualism and Disability in the Lives of Latinx Mothers, published by Multilingual Matters in 2021. And, In 2022, she received the Early Career Award from AERA’s Bilingual Research SIG. María is currently an Assistant Professor in Educational Linguistics at The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a National Academy of Education/ Spencer PostDoctoral Fellow (2023-2024).

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Dr. Jim Cummins

Professor Emeritus- Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Dr. Jim Cummins is a Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. His research focuses on literacy development in educational contexts characterized by linguistic and socioeconomic diversity. In numerous articles and books, he has explored the nature of language proficiency and its relationship to literacy development, with particular emphasis on the intersections of societal power relations, teacher-student identity negotiation, and literacy attainment. His most recent book Rethinking the Education of Multilingual Learners: A Critical Analysis of Theoretical Concepts (Multilingual Matters) was published in fall 2021. He is the recipient of the International Reading Association's 1979 Albert J. Harris award and has received honorary doctorates from five universities in North America and Europe in recognition of his contributions to issues of educational equity and multilingual education.

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Madison Leech


Central Bucks School District, Pennsylvania

Madison Leech currently serves as an administrator in Central Bucks School District in Pennsylvania. She began her career as an English Language Development teacher in Asheville, North Carolina, and continued to develop an ELD program and teach in Central Bucks before becoming an administrator. Throughout her career, Madison has taken on roles as a parent educator, instructional coach, and community liaison within Central Bucks in addition to serving on the county's New Americans Advisory Commission to create a more welcoming, inclusive community for new arrivals. She has also been involved in collaborative efforts with WIDA's Advancing ALTELLA Project, focusing on creating more inclusive support for Multilingual Learners with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. Her recent collaboration with the ALTELLA team produced Advancing ALTELLA Toolkit No. 1, a brief and toolkit designed to assist educational teams in supporting Multilingual Learners. Madison's approach to leadership centers around advocating for students and their families, promoting the value of multilingualism and an asset-based approach to supporting families, and fostering a collaborative educational environment that promotes inclusivity and support for educational teams and the families with whom they work. In her free time, Madison enjoys traveling, playing guitar, reading multiple books at the same time, and a strong cup of coffee!

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Cristina Sánchez-López


Symposium Co-Host


Cristina collaborates with educators in the US and Canada on developing culturally and linguistically sustaining multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS); mathematics; literacy across the content areas; multilingual education; engaging parents, Multilingual Learners with Special Educational Needs, and supporting Pre-K educators who serve Multilingual Learners. Cristina has taught at the elementary, middle school and university levels in the US and Mexico. At present, Cristina teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of Biliteracy, Assessment, and Foundations of Language Minority Education. For more than18 years, Cristina and her colleague, Theresa Young (Speech-Language Pathologist, Ontario, Canada) have collaborated to support school problem-solving teams as they develop more culturally and linguistically sustaining learning environments. Cristina and her husband have raised their daughter bilingually.

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Theresa Young

Speech Language Pathologist-

Symposium Co-Host

Theresa began her career on the Pacific island of Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands where she worked with multilingual students and families in home, school, and medical settings. She coordinated a team of speech-language pathologists to develop culturally and linguistically responsive assessment and intervention practices for Pacific Islanders. Upon returning to Canada, Theresa worked in schools in the highly diverse Toronto area, while providing professional development and writing collaboratively on multicultural, multilingual topics in education. She has been working with local First Nations to design and implement programs and services for children in preschools and schools in home communities.  

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Cristina's & Theresa's Work Together

Cristina and Theresa's collaborative work melds the fields of multilingual education and special education into a framework for culturally and linguistically responsive practice for educators and practitioners in schools. Their solution-seeking process is featured in Special Education Considerations for English Language Learners: Delivering a Continuum of Services (2013, 2021). They have most recently collaborated on a volume in the Oxford University Press Key Concept Series for Language Learners, Focus on Special Educational Needs (2018). 

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