By Angie Hood, Guest Writer for the Madison County Record
If you ask a seven and a half year old dyslexic boy who struggles with reading what his favorite subject is at school you would not expect him to answer “reading”.
That is what Marty Satterfield, a student at Huntsville’s Greengate School considers his favorite subject and Mark Allen, 12, in his second year at Greengate, claims literature as his favorite subject. For both boys, their answers are nothing short of wonderful.
“I like to read a lot. I like to read books that are interesting. I like books about things and books that are stories. I think I do more reading here. Tutoring is fun and I get to play fun learning games,” Marty said.
“Literature is my favorite subject. I also like our expert projects. We each study one topic that we pick for the whole year. My topic this year is praying mantises and last year it was beetles,” Mark said.
Greengate school, a not for profit school for children like Marty and Mark with specific learning differences in reading, spelling or writing, is now in its second year. The school started in 2003 with three students and has more than doubled this year with eleven students.
“It is more fun because there are more people to learn with and more people on the playground. I like the classes and my favorites are math and science,” according to Janie Alexander, 11, a second year student at Greengate.
Greengate School takes up the top floor of the fellowship hall building of Sherwood Baptist Church on Old Madison Pike in Huntsville. The church donates the space to Greengate as a community outreach to students who struggle because of dyslexia.
According to the International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. It is estimated that between 7% and 15% of the general population struggle with some form of reading disability. While some cases are mild and only cause occasional issues in school, others can be severe. Children may find themselves unable to read at grade level, struggling with each syllable they read and having little or no comprehension of what they are reading.
Second year student Christopher Combs, 12, says the school is different this year.
“This year we are more organized with more rules and we are doing more things”.
Another second year student, ten year old Coulter Wright, likes that his school Greengate has grown.
“We have more kids and more teachers and I like that. We have more friends at our school”.
Greengate uses curriculum designed for kids with dyslexia like EVERYDAY MATH. Courtney Volinski, 10, used to hate math but since coming to Greengate she has totally changed her mind.
“Math is my favorite subject. At regular schools there is not as much “hands on”. This school is lots of “hands on”. In math you don’t have to just write it, you do stuff with your hands and that is fun.”
The children are grouped into skill levels instead of traditional grades. There are three skill levels: the Unicorns, the Pegasus, and the Centaur, named after mythological creatures since the school mascot is a griffin.
Daniel Puckett,10, loves his skill level group the Unicorns.
“I like science. I like writing in my science book. I like everything about it. We are doing research about the body of the caterpillar,” Daniel said.
Science has really caught the imagination of Abigail Bayer,7. With a shy smile Abigail Bayer gives the writer a hug and then invites her into the science room to show off their butterfly project, a net cage with one butterfly and several chrysalises ready to hatch into butterflies. Abigail is in her first year at Greengate.
“It’s good because it is really fun. I like everything.” Abigail said.
Her fellow science fan Casey Frederick is really enjoying their butterfly project.
“Our caterpillars are my favorite thing. Mine are in a chrysalis and one hatched and it was Marty’s and it is a butterfly,” Casey said.
This is Casey’s first year at Greengate.
“The best thing about Greengate is that the teachers are really nice. I like the schedules. I like all the subjects. Tutoring is good. They help us read,” Casey said.
Philip Hall,7, is also in his first year at Greengate but he says he has two favorite things.
“Tutoring and science are my best things. I get to read in tutoring and my tutor teacher gets to read to me. About science, my caterpillar is in a chrysalis and my other caterpillar is in a J- position.” Philip said.
Each student gets a one hour dyslexia tutoring session each day, one on one with a tutor and that helps them make reading progress.
“I think Greengate is a very good school. It’s a lot better here. I am really making higher progress here than I ever have before. I feel good about that. It is easier to read and I never could really understand how people could read that fast and now I am starting to understand. I am reading faster and a lot easier,” said new student Ian Briggs.
Faster and easier, two words about Ian’s reading that no doubt bring relief to the hearts of his parents.
Greengate School director Marcia Ramsey says having more students this year has been good for all the children.
“Even in these first four weeks we have seen improvements. For a start we have seen a change in their attitude and that is a huge thing for dyslexic children, who have faced so many failures and they are not encountering that now. They feel differently about school and that is good. For the older children the new rules and routine make them feel better,” Ramsey said.
Plans are for the children to be at Greengate through eighth grade and then move on to regular schools. “They will be ready!” Ramsey said.
For more information about Greengate School, call 551-4439, or visit its Web site, www.greengateschool.org.
Greengate School set to open August 7th, 2002
By Angie Hood, Guest Writer for the Madison County Record
The state of Alabama will see the opening of a unique school next month when Greengate School opens on August 7th. Greengate School is a not for profit school for children with dyslexia, a reading disability that without special intervention hinders bright children from succeeding academically.
It is estimated that between 7% and 15% of the general population struggle with some form of reading disability. While some cases are mild and only cause occasional issues in school, others can be severe. Children may find themselves unable to read at grade level, struggling with each syllable they read and having little or no comprehension what they are reading.
Greengate School got its biggest boost in opening thanks to a local church. Greengate is using space donated by Sherwood Park Baptist Church located at 6600 Old Madison Pike in Huntsville, just at Research Park Blvd., (formerly Rideout road), at the edge of Research Park.
“It was a very exciting moment when we got a site for the school, a home for the children, so we can visualize the school day. We’re very excited about being able to offer this, for this dream to come true, to offer this resource to children of Madison county,” said Marcia Ramsey, school director.
Ramsey says she is so grateful the church took this school on as a mission to the community. “They have been very supportive and positive about the school and very generous. We really thank them for going to the lengths they did to accommodate us. They really saw the need for this school and kept telling us how they believe in this. They are doing this school for the community,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey cites Sherwood Park pastor Steve Pettey and Buddy Tidwell who led the school through the approval procedure with the church.
“We want to say thanks to all the deacons and members who worked to make that decision possible and supported the idea of a school for children with dyslexia.”
The Sherwood Park Baptist church facility gives Greengate School a whole building to use with a kitchen, gym, classrooms, playground, and playing fields, just perfect Ramsey says for a school.
The benefit to students attending Greengate School will come from small classes, specialized teaching and individual tutoring.
“The school day differs from traditional school days because it is heavily weighted toward language skills, reading writing and spelling. The thing that really distinguishes us will be the daily individual tutoring using multi-sensory language instruction, absolutely crucial for kids with dyslexia. The instruction is sequential and systematic, and cumulative sensory,” Ramsey said.
Another benefit for the students will be working with other talented and creative dyslexic children. Seeing that they are not alone in their disability and that others with the same problems are smart and successful will lead to more a positive self-image.
Greengate School will begin with two teachers, Marcia Ramsey and Patti McClanahan, with additional tutors as needed. Experienced class room teacher Patti McLanahan has been a science teacher and dyslexia tutor locally. School director Marcia Ramsey has been a local tutor for children with dyslexia. Ramsey ran the Montessori School of Huntsville on Bailey Cove for five years.
Ramsey became involved in teaching children with dyslexia when she discovered her own son had dyslexia. According to Ramsey her son is now 14 and compensating for his dyslexia very well.
Greengate plans to offer a summer four week intensive tutoring offered next summer. It’s a long range goal of the school to have an outreach tutoring program available to students who cannot afford to attend the school.
Starting a school from scratch is a daunting task and the school is relying on a team of volunteers to get it running.
“The project would not have been possible without the hard work of board members John Allen, our board president, Marie Lambert, our business manager, and Louise LeGrand. The support and advice of the staff of Randolph School has been steady throughout the project,” Ramsey said.
For more information about Greengate School, call 551-4439, or visit its Web site, www.greengateschool.org.
Dyslexia school will speak to the needs of children
Planned Greengate School will aid kids with learning disability
Februdary 5, 2002
By KARI HAWKINS For the Huntsville Times
Ten-year-old Mark has something in common with such famously successful people as diplomat and statesman Winston Churchill, scientist Albert Einstein, investor Charles Schwab, and entertainers Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg and Cher.
It’s called dyslexia, a reading difference that makes it difficult to organize ideas for speaking or writing, memorize the alphabet and math facts, comprehend what is being read and follow oral instructions.
Like many children with this reading disability, Mark was diagnosed in the third grade, when students advance from activities that teach them to read to assignments where they use reading to learn.
Like others coping with dyslexia, Mark has struggled with what has seemed like an invisible barrier that has kept him from excelling in school. He has felt the embarrassment and frustration of not being able to keep up with the rest of the children in his class at Weatherly Heights Elementary, despite having a high level of intelligence.
“I’ve cried in class,” Mark said. “It can hurt when you are working in class on English or spelling and one of the other kids sees where you are on your paper and they say ‘Gee, you’re still on number four!’ My teacher has helped me. But it still hurts when kids say things like that.”
Dyslexia affects about 10 percent of the general population. In Huntsville, that translates into an estimated 4,000 school-age children.
Although they typically have average or above average intelligence, dyslexic learners process information differently than non-dyslexic learners. Symptoms include the inability to associate letters and sounds, difficulty rhyming words, poor sequencing of numbers and words, and letter and number reversal.
“The problem ranges from mild to severe,” said Mark’s father, John Allen. “When the class curriculum starts to be driven by reading, these students start falling behind because they are struggling with reading.”
And that can hurt a child’s self-esteem.
“I can’t imagine anything more frustrating than a student knowing or feeling that they are smart, but not being able to show this in the classroom,” Allen said. “Some kids start thinking they are dumb. Kids at school can be so cruel with their comments that reading out loud can get to be a real nightmare in class.”
Unlike many of his more famous predecessors with dyslexia, Mark has received early intervention that has made it easier for him to manage his disability. Once diagnosed, Mark had the benefit of working with tutor Marcia Ramsey, who has used multisensory instruction to overcome the barriers created by dyslexia.
“There are several multisensory language techniques that can be used,” she said. “They all have in common that they try to access into a child’s learning through as many sensors as possible. They use visual, auditive, cognitive and tactile techniques.
“With Mark, that means using his hands, eyes, ears and mouth all at once so that the information is coming in through more than one track of neurons in the brain.”
Ramsey’s interest in dyslexia is both professional and personal. A 30-year teacher with training in teaching children with dyslexia, she also has a teen-age son who is dyslexic.
She has been working with Mark’s father to start a school for dyslexic children in grades 3-5. Plans call for the school, to be called Greengate School, to open in the fall of the 2002-03 school year at a location near Cummings Research Park with about 30 students enrolled.
A public meeting to introduce parents to this new school will be held on Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. The school will also be discussed at the monthly meeting of the Madison Learning Differences Support Group on Feb. 27 at noon at Asbury United Methodist Church.
“This will be a full-time school,” Ramsey said. “It’s one thing to remediate language, but the student is missing so much in other classes. Their struggle to read can cause them to fall behind in other academic areas such as math, science and social studies.”
Having evaluated several well-known dyslexia schools throughout the country, Ramsey and other organizers decided their school will teach all subjects using multisensory methods such as Ramsey has used with Mark.
The school will also use a lot of one-on-one instruction, with the teacher-student ratio being one teacher to every five students.
Organizers expect the school to grow to about 80 students, attracting them from a 100-mile radius.
Allen estimates that it will cost about $200,000 to start the school. Those funds will come from donations, grants and other sources.
“We’re starting with third grade because that is where most students are diagnosed,” said Allen, who is serving as the school’s president. “But we plan on adding grades as we go along so that we will be a first-through-eighth-grade school.
He thinks the school will fill an important educational niche.
“We’ve talked to educators, heads of schools, teachers and psychologists, and we know Huntsville needs a school like this,” he said. “We feel positive we are doing the right thing.”
Although dyslexic students now can obtain assistance from resource teachers, special education teachers and private tutors, they often feel as though they are not as smart as the other children in their class.
“Dyslexia affects not just reading, but all subjects, especially math,” Ramsey said. “Children’s comprehension is compromised because it takes them so long to decode a sentence. Their intelligence is not questioned, but they process learning differently, and they need a different way to learn.”
At this school, these children will be able to learn those different ways in an environment where they won’t feel different from their classmates.
“At this school, dyslexic children will be able to connect with other students who have dyslexia,” Ramsey said. “They will be able to show what they can do, not what they can’t do.”
One of the problems with diagnosing dyslexia is that often parents don’t want to admit their child has a learning problem. Allen hopes the new school will also provide support for parents who are trying to accept and understand their child’s reading difference.
“It was such a shock when we learned Mark had dyslexia,” he said. “Here is this bright, funny, active, mischievous kid who is as bright as any other kid with insights far beyond his years, and he couldn’t remember what he had just read.
“Some of the problem these children face is that their parents don’t want to admit there is a problem. They push it off and sometimes kids go undiagnosed.”