My name is Ziograin Correa, Sr., also known as ‘Zio,’ and I am a husband, father of six adorable children (5 boys and 1 girl), and teacher. Born and raised in the Bronx, NY to Puerto Rican parents, I grew up with four siblings in a Spanish-speaking household. I attended P.S. 159, JHS 118, and James Monroe High School in New York City. I currently reside in Manhattan with my wife and children.
My experiences as a parent motivated me to pursue a career in education. Missed opportunities to seek and obtain early intervention and/or CPSE services for my son, after he was diagnosed with autism, encouraged me to pursue a career in early childhood special education. I had never envisioned myself becoming a teacher.
After graduating from James Monroe High School in June 1996, I did not intend to go to college. Instead, I wanted to join the U.S. Army, but shortly before enlistment oath, I changed my mind. Several months later, I met Michelle, whom would become my wife and mother of my children. Our first son was born in August 1998.
On May 28, 2000, my life changed forever. During a baseball game at Yankee Stadium between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, a foul ball struck and fractured my right hand. Several days later I had surgery and then a long recovery. While recovering, my worker’s compensation attorney asked me, “What are you going to do now?” I was injured and unemployed. At the time I had a 21-month-old child.
By August 2000, I had enrolled at Hostos Community College/CUNY (Bronx, NY) and graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts. I transferred to Hunter College/CUNY (New York, NY) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science. After deciding that law school was not for me due to full-time obligations (family and work), I enrolled at Bank Street College of Education (New York, NY) and graduated with a master of science in education with specialties in dual language/bilingual education, early childhood general education (birth-grade 2), and early childhood special education (birth-grade 2). I am certified to teach birth-grade 2 in general education, special education, and dual language/bilingual settings.
While in graduate school, I taught in a bilingual integrated second grade class. I then worked with preschool students with disabilities. For several years, I provided direct services to preschool students at head start programs, daycare centers, and in their homes. I’m currently working as a special educator with the NYC Early Intervention Program, providing direct services to infants and toddlers and coaching their families and providers, mostly at daycare centers or in the home.
During my time as a special educator, I have realized that families ask the same question over and over again: What toys do you recommend? Regardless of family income and/or educational attainment, they are determined to support their child. Most of my middle class and wealthy families have tons of toys not appropriate for our sessions while most low-income to very low-income families have no toys at all. The NYC Early Intervention Program requires special educators to coach families so the child can meet functional outcomes and objectives written on the child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). How can I coach families that do not have appropriate toys/no toys at all? It can be very challenging. I try not to ask families to purchase toys for my sessions. However, when they are willing and able to do so, I recommend toys as well as demonstrate how to play appropriately with the toys so children can meet their goals.
At the same time, parents and caregivers often use toys inappropriately. For example, most families would encourage their child to learn five body parts at the same time. I coach families to pick one body part (i.e., eyes) and make the eyes the target body part for several weeks. No need to rush; too much information for young children. When appropriate, we can then introduce a second body part (i.e., mouth) while reinforcing ‘eyes.’ It is important to consider field of two (eyes and mouth) and ask, “Where are the eyes?” or “Can you find the mouth?” The way we present and use the toys determines growth over time.
Whether families live in a city homeless shelter or in one of the city’s priciest neighborhoods, professional/illiterate, they all share the same vision: they would do almost anything to ensure that their child moves up the developmental ladder.
I want to continue to support families so that children can play to learn and families can learn to play. My goal is to support anyone working with children (parents, caregivers, preschools, head start programs, daycare centers, childcare providers, teachers, and child life programs).