Janet George, M.S., M.ED., Fellow/AOGPE, is the Founder and Head of The Fortune Academy and the subject of today's interview in our "inspiring people" series. According to the school's website, “The school is designed to provide an environment that nurtures each child's development, builds upon his/her individual strengths, and offers remediation in areas of weakness…Fortune Academy is 1 of only 11 schools in the United States to have its Orton-Gillingham instruction program accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.” The Fortune Academy opened its doors in 2002. Camp Spring Creek: If you could offer one message to parents, potential employers, or members of society in general about life with a learning difference, what would that message be? What kind of shift in our thinking would be most helpful in bridging the gap or tearing down stereotypes?
Janet George: My message would be that having a learning difference is a life-long journey that doesn't necessarily get easier, it just gets "different." Learning about your strengths helps you manage and work around those areas that can challenge you. All individuals, whether LD or not, gravitate to what they are interested in. Those with learning differences have incredible gifts that can elevate a business to a new level, can invent new devices to support the medical field, and can design and build beautiful structures for communities.
CSC: Can you tell us about a particularly inspiring or moving moment you witnessed with a child, teacher, or parent in the LD community?
JG: My "moments" happen daily when I have the opportunity to sit with a child one-on-one and have them read to me. Their sense of pride and wanting to show me how much they are improving, well...their smiles and hugs just warm my heart and feed my soul!
CSC: Each Head of School brings his/her own personal skill set and passions to a job. What would you say you bring above and beyond the mission of The Fortune Academy?
JG: My passion is to make all of our students feel special, safe, empowered, and instill in them the confidence that they CAN learn. Additionally and as importantly, helping children find their strengths--what they are good at and are interested in--and then nurturing those strengths; that is incredibly important. Greeting them every single morning as they exit their cars, welcoming them with a smile (and sometimes a hug) and letting them know how great it is that THEY are at school--all of those things are important.
CSC: The Fortune Academy offers a dynamic education for grades 1-12, but also gets involved with community outreach, trainings, and maintains a resource center. Can you tell us more about this?
JG: We have a partnership with a local college, located less than 1 mile from our campus, that our 11th and 12th graders can attend courses for duel credit. This allows them to take classes if they are interested in a vocational trade OR if they are working towards an honors diplomas. All teacher trainings happen every Friday, 1:30-2:30. All faculty members are required to participate. Our trainings include research, language instruction, assessments (lead by our school psych, who is also a Fellow and PhD), legal implications (provided by our Board Member who is a Sp.Ed. Attorney)., etc. Our community resource center provides lending materials and offers guidance for parents needing assistance. We also provide free outreach programs.