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.