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Supporting Diverse Multilingual Learners: An Asset-Based Approach

Tuesday, October 24, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Student is writing.

Presented by Dr. Lizzy Cashiola, Associate Director of Regional Research, Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research; Andrea Bitner, ELL Educator, Author, and Speaker, Interboro School District (PA); Dr. José Viana, Senior Education Advisor, Lexia Learning; and Breanna Guzman, Senior Language Product Specialist, Lexia Learning
Moderated by Cassandra Wheeler, Director of Lexia LETRS® State Success, Lexia Learning

Sponsored by Lexia Learning

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Emergent bilingual and English language learners are sometimes grouped as if they have the exact same needs and supports. Yet, as many educators are keenly aware, there’s not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to tailoring instructional support for English language learning.

How can educators better support experienced multilinguals (also known as long-term English learners or LTELs), dual-language learners, newcomers, and students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE)?

Lexia Learning’s Breanna Guzman (Senior Language Product Specialist) facilitated a panel discussion featuring Dr. Lizzy Cashiola (Associate Director of Regional Research, Houston Education Research Consortium, Rice University), Andrea Bitner (ELL Educator, Author, and Speaker, Interboro School District), and Dr. José Viana (Senior Education Advisor, Lexia Learning) to discuss these student groups while considering the approaches, insights, and perspectives to support multilingual students with different and important characteristics.

In this session, viewers learned the context and importance of asset-based labeling and terminology, research findings related to the specific needs of these student groups, and what schools can do to help better engage families of students learning English.

This recorded edLeader Panel is of interest to PreK-12 teachers, ELL and ESOL specialists, librarians, school and district leaders, and education technology leaders.

This edLeader Panel is part of Emergent Bilingual Week: A New Era in Multilingualism.

This five-day event, October 23rd – 27th was designed to inspire educators and leaders in service of our 5 million+ multilingual students across the country. Our expert-led panel discussions brought you the latest research, strategies, and tools to celebrate the assets every student brings to the classroom.

 Lizzy Cashiola

About the Presenters

Dr. Lizzy Cashiola is the Associate Director of Regional Research at the Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC), which is part of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Dr. Cashiola began working with HERC’s regional research team in 2019 as a research scientist. In partnership with HERC’s 11 school district partners, she has overseen studies examining long-term English learners (LTELs) and public school district pre-kindergarten in Texas and the Houston area. She has also participated in studies examining student mobility, social-emotional learning, schools’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and postsecondary pathways. Dr. Cashiola received her Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

Andrea Bitner

Andrea Bitner is an educator, author, and speaker. She lives in Philadelphia, PA. She has worked with students in grades K-12 throughout her 22 years in public education from all around the world. Her first book, Take Me Home, was published by Austin Macauley in July of 2021. Take Me Home is the true story of 11 of her former EL students who give firsthand accounts of what it’s really like to become bilingual in America. She is also a co-author of Chip Baker’s The Impact of Influence Volume 3 and Dr. Rick Jetter’s 100 No-Nonsense Things That ALL School Leaders Should STOP Doing. She teaches ELs daily and travels the country speaking and teaching educators how to teach and reach EL students and effectively communicate with EL families!

José Viana

Dr. José Viana joined Lexia Learning in December 2019, bringing 30 years of experience in education. A former English learner himself, his career began in Miami, Florida where he taught English to speakers of other languages. During his time in the classroom, Dr. Viana strategically incorporated technology through blended learning in order for emergent bilingual students to fully participate and thus accelerate their proficiency in English and ability to meet academic goals.

Dr. Viana was most recently the Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition at the United States Department of Education. In this role, he was responsible for the overall leadership, management, and direction of education for English language learners nationwide. He also oversaw the development and dissemination of discretionary grants, research studies, and resources that guide education practice and policy to meet the needs of our country’s emergent bilingual students.

Dr. Viana holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Florida International University and a master’s degree in Computer Education from Barry University. He completed his doctorate in Educational Leadership at North Carolina State University.

Breanna Guzman

About the Facilitator

Breanna Guzman is a Senior Language Product Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education/Spanish, a Master of Science degree in TESOL, and an Advanced Professional Teaching Certificate in Grades 1–6 and ESOL PreK–12. Her professional experience includes teaching Spanish, third grade, first grade, and ESOL, as well as coaching classroom teachers, organizing professional development, and managing ELL programs. Dedicated to education and advocacy for emergent bilinguals as a dual-language learner herself, Breanna helped to develop a new product to support the English development of emergent bilinguals.

Cassandra Wheeler

About the Moderator

Cassandra Wheeler completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before returning home to Montgomery Public Schools and beginning her career as an educator at Morningview Elementary School. After earning her master’s degree and administrative certification, Cassandra joined the Alabama Reading Initiative, where she authored Alabama’s Reading First Initiative grant and managed Alabama’s statewide DIBELS® pilot. After serving the children of Alabama for 10 years, Cassandra expanded her outreach to impact students everywhere by joining the (then) Voyager Expanded Learning organization and, finally, Lexia®, where she serves as the first Director of Lexia LETRS® State Success.

Learn more about viewing the live presentation and the recording, earning your CE certificate, and using our new accessibility features.

Join the Supporting Emergent Bilingual Students community to network with educators, participate in online discussions, receive invitations to upcoming edWebinars, and view recordings of previous programs to earn CE certificates.


Lexia®, a Cambium Learning Group company, is the Structured Literacy expert. For nearly 40 years, the company has focused solely on literacy, and today provides science of reading-based solutions for both students and educators. With robust offerings for differentiated instruction, personalized learning, assessment, and professional learning, Lexia helps more learners read, write, and speak with confidence. For more information, visit

Multilingualism is a superpower.

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