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Educator Guide to Support Immigrant, Refugee, and Newcomer Students

Educator Guide to Support Immigrant, Refugee, and Newcomer Students

The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is proud to recognize and celebrate World Refugee Day. Observance of World Refugee Day began in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 convention relating to the Status of Refugees. According to the most recent U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) microdata, San Diego is home to 344,000 foreign-born community members, which represents more than 27% of the city’s total population – more than twice the national average.

We aim for SDCOE to be a place where, in accordance with our board goal of providing educational opportunities and support so that all students are successful, we prioritize the specific needs of immigrant, refugee, and newcomer students and all historically marginalized communities in our policies and ongoing dialogues.

Who are Immigrant, Refugee, and Newcomer Students? 

According to the California Department of Education: 

Immigrant children and youth are individuals who (a) are aged 3 through 21; (b) were not born in any state (each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico); and (c) have not been attending one or more schools in the United States for more than three full academic years. (California Department of Education)

A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country of origin because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. If the person is currently residing in the United States, the person may apply for asylum. If the person is not in the United States, the person may apply to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2015)

A newcomer is often used as an umbrella term for students born outside the United States who have recently arrived and are new to the country. Newcomer students often include English learners and may also include, but not be limited to, asylees, refugees, unaccompanied youth, undocumented youth, migratory students, and other immigrant children and youth identified by the local educational agencies (LEAs).” (California Department of Education)

Supporting Immigrant, Refugee, and Newcomer Students in Public Schools

SDCOE offers the following educator guides to support immigrant, refugee, and newcomer students: 

Find additional resources on our Refugee and Immigrant Newcomer page of our website.

What Our Students and Community Members are Saying

We seek to listen to diverse voices within our community and honor their knowledge and beliefs about educational concerns and best practices for our students. These statements were shared by Middle Eastern students and community members, and we strive to listen and amplify these voices. 

  • Center students’ languages, literacies, cultures, and histories 
  • Diversify the curriculum, ensuring positive representation
  • Support parent/family voice
  • Ensure safe and inclusive classrooms
  • Learn about and accommodate for religious holidays
  • Collaborate with community partners

Additional resources:
Watch our SDCOE Asian American Student ExperienceLatinx, Middle Eastern and North African Student Experience panels, which include immigrant and refugee students who share their experiences in education. 

Resources for Educators

The following K-12 open education resources (OER) aim to bring resources to schools, communities and homes:

Books by Grade Level: 

Grades TK-2

  • Bright Star by Yuyi Morales
  • From North to South by René Colato Lainez
  • Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egneus
  • Marwan’s Journey by Patricia de Arrias, illustrated by Laura Boras
  • Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay
  • Paper Boat by Thao Lam
  • The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
  • Where Butterflies Fill the Sky by Zahra Marwan
  • Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
  • Words are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick  

Grades 3-5

  • Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • The Journey by Francesca Sanna
  • A Long Walk To Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danicat
  • Parachute Kids by Betty Tang
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz
  • Undocumented Immigrants by Sarah Howell
  • The Unwanted by Don Brown
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Grades 6-12

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan
  • In Search of Safety: Voices of Refugees by Susan Kuklin
  • The Far Away Brothers (Adapted for Young Adults): Two Teenage Immigrants Making a Life in America by Lauren Markham
  • Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
  • The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
  • Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith
  • Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
  • Undocumented by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai
  • We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin

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