Dyslexic Kids as Entrepreneurs and Innovators: A Guest Post from NoticeAbility

We’re excited to share this guest post from Christian Henry of NoticeAbility about the unique event held alongside the IDA conference in Connecticut this past October. NoticeAbility is a nonprofit dedicated to helping students with dyslexia identify their unique strengths and build self-esteem. The organization’s Entrepreneurs and Innovators workshop brought together kids with dyslexia from all over the country to showcase their talents in a “Shark Tank”-style format. Read about it in Christian’s post below and make sure to watch the video at the end. Take a close look and you’ll see former camper Virginia A.! And please check out NoticeAbility’s programs on their website!

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My daughter loved every aspect of school except for one thing: when she had to read at night, it was very stressful!" 

Here at NoticeAbility, we hear this from parents all the time. As a non-profit building online curriculum for dyslexic students, we are challenged by the fact that there are lots of good literacy interventions, but that even under the best circumstances, the self-esteem of students with dyslexia tends to be a casualty. How can we make a difference for these families who know their child is a great learner, whose strength is not— as so much of school demands—in the reading department? 

We offered 30 families a one-time offer: we'd show up at the International Dyslexia Association annual conference at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut and present a condensed version of our Entrepreneurs & Innovators course—normally 10 weeks long— over just two days of the conference. Thanks to Susie, two Camp Spring Creek families drove hours to join in.

Our curriculum recognizes that dyslexics end up disproportionately in careers associated with entrepreneurship, the arts (music, movement, painting, sculpture), architecture and engineering. Since most middle school teachers are not versed in those areas, we make use of the 'blended classroom', with much of the content delivered in online videos with lots of scaffolding to keep a very low demand on our students to read and write just to absorb the material. Then the teacher facilitates small group project-based work, where students are identifying a problem, observing how it impacts people, asking how it might be solved, and then working up to presenting their business model in a public forum as a team. Throughout, students are being coached by their teacher, and through the course content, to find areas of confidence and ability (hence: Notice Ability, which is also a play on words: No Disability) that build their confidence, sense of self, and academic tenacity. 

What we re-discovered during the workshop was the same thing that you know as Camp Spring Creek families: our young dyslexic learners deserve the chance to recognize and exercise their strengths, to claim who they are, to feel great about learning and contributing, and that there is hope for how to make sure this community of support grows. Watch the video here to see parents and students react and reflect. We wish you time with family and great learning together in 2019!

Meet the Tutor: Donna McCourry


Donna McCourry has been teaching in Mitchell County schools for 26 years. Although she has taught at levels from kindergarten to high school, she's currently a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Bowman Middle School in Bakersville. When she heard that Susie was offering a Classroom Educator Orton-Gillingham course, she jumped at the chance to take it. The approach she learned was beneficial not just to her students with learning difficulties, but to all her students. 

Tutoring this summer, she says she has appreciated the opportunity to work one-on-one with students. The individual attention she's able to give students means that she can diagnose their exact difficulties and tailor her instruction to meet those needs. She has been amazed at the progress her students have made. One of her most memorable moments at camp was when one of her students became confident enough with her cursive writing to switch from using a pencil to using a pen. 

Along with Donna, her son Connor (seen below) has accompanied her to camp this summer, taking part in activities such as woodshop and swimming. While Connor doesn't have dyslexia, he says that he's learned a lot about language learning that's helpful to him, too. 


Meet the Tutor: Lynne Huskins


In her forty years teaching in Mitchell County (NC) Schools, Lynne Huskins noticed that “so many kids needed something different than what we offered” in order to be successful readers. Four years ago, when she heard that Susie was offering an Orton-Gillingham Classroom Educator course for local teachers, she thought it might be just what her students did need. It was late in her career, she says, and she wondered if it was too late. But in the end, she decided to do it. “I’ve never been sorry,” she says. After her O-G training, she says, “my students’ test scores skyrocketed.”

Although she began as a resource teacher, has a special ed certification, and taught third grade briefly, Lynne spent most of her time in kindergarten, reaching children just when they were starting out. Even at that young age, she was able to recognize when students were likely to have reading difficulties. With early intervention, she says, students have “a much better chance” of being able to read.

Since being at camp, she has loved the opportunity to work one-on-one with students on their individual needs. There’s “so much growth” over the course of one month, and for the students who are able to stay longer, the extra two weeks “makes all the difference in the world,” she says.

In addition to the gratifying experience of helping students make so much progress, Lynne has enjoyed the opportunity to meet “so many interesting people” from around the world, both the students and staff. “And you can’t beat the view,” she says about the mountain vista outside her tutoring room.

Now that she’s retired, Lynne plans to bring her O-G skills to Gouge Elementary (where she used to teach) as a tutor during the school year. And she plans to come back to camp next year!


In Their Own Words: Campers Reflect on Friends, Reading, and Dyslexia


On the first day campers arrive at Camp Spring Creek, they create a writing sample that serves as a baseline to measure their progress over the summer. Because of their dyslexia, campers (especially first-timers) are not usually eager to create this sample. Writing can be an exercise in frustration. By the time they are ready to leave camp, they create another sample. It’s always impressive to see how much campers progress in as little as a month. Even looking at the samples visually, it’s obvious that writing has become easier and more fluid.


Camp Spring Creek’s emphasis on pencil grip and cursive writing is evident in the campers' writing samples, too.


What's really impressive is the range topics that campers choose to write about. From food and friends at camp to World War II history, campers use their new-found skills to express themselves in ways they couldn’t before.


Some campers choose to write about their struggles with reading and writing. Camper Addie G. put it this way:

I hated reading and I did not like books at all. And I did not love books. But what? I do like reading and I do like books and I do like reading books! I love books and I love reading. I love reading books, plus I could have the whole day reading. I’m not sure if it would happen today, but it could happen tomorrow.

“We love to read as a family,” says Addie’s mom Angi. “But Addie never enjoyed reading on her own as it was just a struggle for her. Since camp, she regularly picks up a chapter book that her tutor gave her and joins us in reading for pleasure, something she would never have done before.”

Camper Olivia L., who has returned to camp several years in a row shared this moving assessment of her progress at camp, not just in reading and writing, but on a very personal level:

There are so many things I have learned and accomplished at camp over the years. For one, how to write, spell, read, syllables, and most importantly, how to make friends and not be ashamed of being dyslexic or thinking I was less than everyone else; thinking I was less intelligent or even feeling excluded. All those bad and upset feelings, I hardly ever feel anymore.

During my time at camp, I feel I’ve really thrived and stopped trying to fit in and started trying to stand out. 

Our campers are truly some of the most amazing children you’ll ever meet. Helping them to express themselves in many different ways is at the heart of what we do at camp. 

Thank You, Tutors, for a Job Well Done!


This past weekend, we said goodbye to two tutors who were with us for the first four-week session. We want to take a moment to appreciate these wonderful educators and the work they did at camp this summer. Here's a little bit more about Jeanine Axelrod (above, left) and Mandy Pennington (above, right). Thanks for a job well done! 

Jeanine Axelrod

Jeanine came to us from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has worked in the Forest Hills school district for 15 years, first as a reading consultant, special ed teacher, and gifted teacher, and now in special ed.

As a undergraduate student, Jeanine studied learning disabilities and speech pathology. Through her education, she developed an interest in diagnostics, working in a clinical setting during graduate school. After getting her master’s, Jeanine pursued Orton-Gillingham training on her own. “The brain, learning, and kids” have always been central to career. Working in school settings, Jeanine has been able to put her diagnostic experience to good use.

Jeanine found out about Camp Spring Creek through one of her students, who attended camp this summer. She appreciates the emphasis on teamwork and the high standards at camp. “It’s a community of educators,” she says. There’s a “synergy” here that comes from being away from the distraction of day-to-day life, and that benefits students as well as teachers. Her students, she says, were really hard-working and always tried to challenge themselves each day. Jeanine says she loves how Camp Spring Creek emphasizes not only helping each student not only to read but to become “a well rounded person.”

“It’s an amazing camp,” says Jeanine. “I feel blessed, privileged and honored to be a part of it.”

Mandy Pennington

Mandy joined us this summer from Augusta, Georgia. During the school year, she is an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) teacher.

When her son was six, Mandy realized he was having real trouble with reading. At the time her family was living in Germany and she couldn’t find the help he needed. “I was a special ed teacher, but I couldn’t help my son,” she says. After doing some research, she found an Orton-Gillingham course she could complete online. Upon moving back to the States, she completed trainings in Atlanta and at Camp Spring Creek.

Beyond helping her son, it’s especially important to Mandy to help other children with dyslexia, many of whom are underserved in their schools. She tutors students after school and will continue to do so next school year.

At camp this summer, Mandy appreciated the opportunity in her tutoring to “focus on all the parts of Orton-Gillingham,” from spelling to syllable types. Unlike tutoring during the school year (when students arrive after school hungry, tired, and unable to focus), campers are away from distraction and really able to put their energy into learning. Using “the Susie method,” she says, it’s possible to work on "everything at once and get it all done within an hour." Mandy was impressed with the tremendous progress her students were able to make during the summer. And so were we!

VIP Guests at Camp

If you had (or were) a camper at Camp Spring Creek during the summer of 2014 or 2015, you will remember Jeppe Bjerg Thanning, our counselor from Denmark. For the past few days, Jeppe has returned to camp as a VIP guest, along with his girlfriend Pernille Bavnsgaard Jensen. The two are on an East Coast trip to the US which has also included a stay in Boston. 

Jeppe is a student at Aalborg University, where he studies Political Science and has one year left in school. 

Jeppe's best memories of camp include overnight hiking on the Appalachian Trail and just the wonderful community feeling at camp. One of the highlights, though, came at Christmas after working at camp. "Suddenly, I got 15 Christmas cards!" he says. Jeppe won't claim to have a favorite camper, though. "They all have their own unique charm," he says. 

When we say that camp is a family, we really mean it. We are always happy to have former campers and counselors come visit. Welcome back, Jeppe! 

Jeppe during that awesome overnight hike in 2015!

Jeppe during that awesome overnight hike in 2015!

Buddy Beads: A Camp Spring Creek Tradition

One of the things that makes Camp Spring Creek so special is the spirit of friendship and support that develops amongst our campers and between campers and staff. We encourage campers to practice and recognize kindness and helpfulness in many ways, one of which is through buddy beads.

Every day at lunch, anyone can choose someone to recieve a buddy bead. Here's how it works. After announcements, Steve lets everyone know that it's time for buddy beads. Campers or staff will raise their hands and share who they'd like to give a buddy bead to and why. It might be something simple like "for helping me in woodshop" or "for helping me make my bed this morning." Tutors will often recognize the special effort a camper made during tutoring or thank another staff member. One camper or staff member will circulate through the room with the buddy bead container and the person who was recognized can pick the bead of his or her choice.

Buddy beads are made throughout the summer during art. They're made from bakable clay. Camper collect them, put them on strings and wear them. They're a great reminder that no act of kindess is too small to be recognized!


Remembering Diana H. King, 1927-2018

It would be hard to overstate how important Diana H. King was to the field of dyslexia education. As a passionate advocate for children with dyslexia and committed educator of teachers, Diana made an impact that will continue for generations. Diana wasn't just a hero for those in dyslexia education: she was a beloved friend and mentor to many, including our co-founders Susie and Steve. An unfailing supporter of Camp Spring Creek, Diana had a tireless dedication to children with dyslexia, a quality we strive to emulate here at camp. Below is a rememberance of Diana written by her long-time friend and colleague, William Van Cleave. 

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Diana Hanbury King (1927-2018), pioneer and legend in the field of dyslexia, passed away at her home on June 15 after a short illness.

Under the aegis of mentor Helene Durbrow, Diana began her nearly seventy-year career in the field of dyslexia at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., where Anna Gillingham visited regularly to supervise teachers. Prior to that, she had spent time in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) on her uncle’s farm, Kildonan; both her uncle and his daughters had what she later realized was dyslexia. Her first teaching job--at Ruzawi--came about by pure chance while she lived there, and thus began a lifelong passion.

In 1955 Diana established Dunnabeck, a summer camp in Pennsylvania, designed to meet the needs of dyslexic students. She served as the camp’s director for 35 summers. In 1969, with the help of Kurt Goldman, she established The Kildonan School, first in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, then in Amenia, New York. Both programs continue to flourish. Schools, camps,and training programs around the world, including Fraser Academy (Canada) and Camp Spring Creek (North Carolina), have been established with her vision and guidance. Durango Mountain Camp was also inspired by Camp Dunnabeck, and The Diana Hanbury King Academy for training teachers opened recently in Australia.

Diana mentored dozens of leaders in the field of learning difficulties--authors, school administrators, dyslexia rights advocates, and international presenters who acknowledge her as a driving force behind their work. She authored some fifteen important teaching books and continued to write up until a few weeks before her death.

A gifted presenter, Diana trained thousands of teachers in both public and independent schools. Never one to suffer fools gladly, she expected only the best of teachers--because, as she often said, our students “do not have any time to waste.” It was rare to win an argument with Diana. You needed to come prepared, and sometimes with research done, usually to find that she was correct in her initial position. Even so, she gave of herself selflessly to her students and her trainees, never unwilling to share her time and advice, her suggestions, and her passion for teaching.

A Founding Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners & Educators and a member of the International Dyslexia Association (formerly known as the Orton Dyslexia Society) since 1951, Diana received the New York Branch Annual Award (1985), the Samuel T. Orton Award (1990), and the Margaret Byrd Rawson Lifetime Achievement Award (2013) for her work on the national level. In 2016, she received the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, only the second time in 25 years that they have bestowed this honor.

When asked, Diana was always quite clear that her first passion and best skill was tutoring students with dyslexia. At her passing, a former student wrote, “Mrs. King was the best teacher I ever had. She was always hard but gentle with me because she knew the potential of her students.” She was a gifted instructor who understood deeply the notion of diagnostic-prescriptive teaching and used her almost limitless knowledge to inform her instruction in each session with her students, who ranged in age from five to adult. She taught at schools and camps, in public and private school settings, and even for a time at a prison.

Diana was born in England and was a naturalized American citizen. She held a B.A. Honors degree from the University of London, an M.A. from George Washington University, and an honorary doctorate from New England College. She knew to some degree five languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. She was a passionate gardener, a vodka drinker, a world traveler, and a lover of words and their origins. She read extensively across a wide variety of disciplines. She was an avid horseback rider and downhill skied well into her sixties. By the age of 80, she had two tattoos, including a full color dragon, which adorned her shoulder.

Diana was devoted to her extensive family as well. She is survived by her son, Christopher King; grandchildren Ian Michaels, Sol Michaels, and Eliana Ballen; sisters Jillian Poole, Anna Larkin, and Josephine Coatsworth; ex-husband and lifelong friend James Cecil King; nephews Tony Poole (Elizabeth) and Colin Poole (Kristine); two grandnieces, Natalie and Alison; and first cousin, Ashley Hanbury, in South Africa. She was predeceased by her parents, Una and Anthony Hanbury; her daughter, Sheila King; and her son-in-law, Murray Michaels.

A lifelong teacher and learner and a force to be reckoned with, Diana leaves behind an enormous legacy in the programs she built, the teachers she inspired, and the students she taught. Those who work in the field of dyslexia have benefited from her wealth of knowledge and her passion for teaching. Her legacy lives on through them.

In lieu of flowers, Diana’s family asks that donations be made to The Kildonan School Pool Fund (kildonan.org), the International Dyslexia Association (dyslexiaida.org), or the Academy of Orton- Gillingham Practitioners & Educators (ortonacademy.org).

Meet the Staff: Mark Peters

When we ask campers about their favorite things at camp, they invariably mention woodshop. The woodshop is a place where campers can explore their creative sides, gain new skills and confidence, and express themselves. But one of the biggest reasons it's so popular is the woodshop teacher: Mark Peters. Mark has a way of putting campers at ease and making them comfortable enough to try new things. While he's a talented educator, he's also a highly-regarded ceramic artist in our region. Mark's Pine Root Pottery blends traditional wood-fired techniques and salt glazes with contemporary and Japanese-inspired forms to create a look that's both graceful and dynamic. We asked Mark to tell us a little more about what makes him keep coming back to Camp Spring Creek's woodshop summer after summer. 


How did you first meet the van der Vorsts and start working at camp?

I've known Steve and Susie for about fifteen years. Our kids went to the Spruce Pine Montessori school together. It was a small school and the parents were very involved. At that time Camp Spring Creek was in its infancy. 

I first worked at the camp as an art instructor for two weeks. It was fun, but two weeks didn't seem like enough time to get to know the campers. About five or six years ago, I was visiting the van der Vorst's and Steve floated the idea of me teaching woodshop. It sounded like a good idea. Steve had always taught woodshop, but he thought maybe he should be free to tend to camp business. I thought it would be fun to be more involved and to stay with the campers for all eight weeks. I've been the full-time woodshop teacher since then.

How is your experience in the woodshop different from your work as a potter? 

Woodworking is not my main focus, but I've been around a woodshop all my life. My father taught me the basics and I've picked up a lot on my own. More recently, I've taught at Appalachian State University as a 3D-design instructor, which includes teaching introductory woodshop to college students. 

What do you like most about working at camp? 

The thing I like most about working at Camp Spring Creek is witnessing the joy and sense of accomplishment that the campers have when they have done something that they never knew they could do. I see that not only in the woodshop but in every other part of our camp. I love seeing that and that is why I keep coming back. 

Mark working with campers in woodshop. 

Mark working with campers in woodshop. 

Below are some the examples of the exquisite work Mark creates through his business Pine Root Pottery. Check out more of it on his business Facebook page


Meet the Counselor: Alexis Fillgraff

Adventurer, world traveler and au pair extrodinaire, Alexis Fillgraff has no shortage of experiences to share with campers this summer. He has taught French and skiing and has volunteered to captain our new motorboat on waterskiing excursions. We are sure that Alexis is going to be a great addition to our summer staff. Read more about him here!


Tell us a little bit about the place where you grew up. 

I grew up in the town of Cagnes-sur-Mer in the South of France, known for its racecourse, but especially in a small part of this city, named Cros de Cagnes, which was an old fishing village.

What do you do during the school year? 

I decided to temporarily stop my undergraduate studies to devote myself to working with children. Last year, I spent a year in Southport, Australia, where I studied English for six months at a school and then stayed six months more as au pair for an Australian family in Sydney. Returning to France, since the beginning of the year, I have worked as a ski instructor at the Auron Departmental Snow School. I also worked with foreign children who wish to learn French.

What were you like when you were a child? 

I asked my father to answer this question. He told me that I was calm, wise, and easy going.

 How would your friends describe your personality? 

My childhood friends say that I am someone serious, especially for my age, always polite, dynamic and sporty, available and open to others, someone you can trust.

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I like to do several sports activities such as swimming, skiing, karate, football, ping-pong, cycling and a regular workout in the gym.

I like hanging out with my friends, going to the movies, bowling, hiking and traveling (apart from Australia, I've been to Spain, Germany, Sardinia, England and Italy).

What’s something campers would be surprised to find out about you? 

That I can drive the boat when they go water skiing.

What’s a game or skill you’re excited about sharing with campers this summer?

I can introduce them to karate or football.

What can campers do to make you smile? What should they avoid doing around you? 

I  think if you are open minded and always have a positive attitude you can easily make me smile. It's best to avoid lying and disrespecting the other campers.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

My favourite outdoor activity is football because I use to play a lot in my country.

What advice can give to campers to have a great summer away from home? 

My advice is to enjoy every moments at camp,  take advantage of the unique experiences available to them in tutoring and sports, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Always be curious.

What are your hopes for this summer? 

I hope that I can help campers have some unbelievable memories and contribute to them having a great time.




Meet the Tutor: Kylie McKinney

While we have tutors and staff from around the world, we're very fortunate at Camp Spring Creek to draw a lot of talent from our local community. This summer, Western North Carolina native Kylie McKinney will join us as a tutor. A third-grade teacher in McDowell County, Kylie discovered Orton-Gillingham in her quest to find the best way to help struggling students in her classroom. We're thrilled that our campers will have the opportunity to learn from this dedicated educator this summer! Kylie tells us a little more about her journey to working at camp below. 


What made you want to become a teacher? 

For 18 years of my life, I swore that I would never become a teacher. I am not sure what changed, but I am finishing my seventh year teaching. I would say that there are several teachers who influenced my life. Their love for students and dedication to education continues to impact my life today. I chose teaching because I wanted to share the opportunities and support that I received with other children. That's my goal: to give every child my very best effort and my love.  

How did you find out about Orton-Gillingham training? 

I met the Van der Vorsts several years ago at our local gymnastics gym. I didn't know much about Camp Spring Creek, but I did know that they helped children who were dyslexic. Ten years later, I had a few children in my third-grade classroom who had shown little to no growth in reading since starting kindergarten. I desperately wanted these kids to learn how to read before leaving third grade. I began researching how to help children with severe reading disabilities. I was constantly finding research that said I should be using the OG approach, but I had no clue what that meant. I was able to attend a talk hosted by Camp Spring Creek. After hearing Diana and Susie speak, I became even more eager to get OG training. I feel very blessed to have Susie and Camp Spring Creek so close to my home and the school where I teach.  

Can you tell us about some/one of the great results you had (or one memorable story) using OG with students? 

I started training in the Fall of 2017 and I was able to begin using it in my classroom in November and December.  My first great experience was having three kids accurately identify the letters B and D after struggling with this since kindergarten. They would approach administration and staff and say "Will you come to my class and watch me use the B/D drill?" They felt so successful! It was very rewarding to witness this. I would say every kid in third grade benefited from OG training and I have seen tremendous growth overall this year.  

What do you love about working one-on-one with a student rather than in  a classroom? 

I haven't had the opportunity to work one-on-one yet, but I already think I will love it. I am used to balancing the academic progress and needs of many kids and now I can focus one kid at a time.  

What's something campers will be surprised to learn about you? 

My sister and I look very different and are almost complete opposites. We never fought growing up. I think we balanced each other out.  

What  are your hobbies or special interests? 

I love living in Western North Carolina and enjoying the mountains and nature. On pretty days, I want to be outside hiking or in the water if it is warm enough. I also love to be with my family.  My nephew Eli is eight and my niece Emmie is six. I love to spend time with them.  

What are your favorite books for kids? 

Wow, there are so many to choose from. I read aloud to my school kids everyda. I think our favorites are Roald Dahl books. My students become so iinvolved in the story and love to talk about it with me and their peers. It is one of my favorite things about teaching.  

What are your hopes for this summer?

I am so excited to work at camp this summer. I hope that I become a better OG tutor and I´m eager to get to know the campers!


Meet the Counselors: Colin Foley

Below, left is a picture of camper Colin Foley with Olson van der Vorst. On the right is Colin Foley, college student and future Camp Spring Creek counselor. We're excited to welcome Colin back to camp this summer and we know his experience as a former camper will be invaluable. We asked Colin to share a few camp memories and hopes for this summer, below. 

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What are your best memories from your time at camp?

Probably the trips or creek hikes that we went on. Not to say there were bad memories, but those ones are the best! 

What do you remember about the counselors at camp? 

I remember how cool it was to have counselors from all over the world and get to learn from them how they live in other places.

How do you think you'll be the same (or different) from your counselors? 

I will try to always have fun or a good time, but at the same time make sure we follow the rules of what we can and can not do while at camp.

What is something you're excited to share with campers this summer? 

I'm probably most excited to give campers some of the amazing experiences I got to have as a kid that helped make me into who I am today.

What would campers be surprised to learn about you? 

Um...that I drive a really old car: a 1987 BMW, but love this car!

What should camper do to stay on your good side? What should they avoid doing?  

To be on my good side, just always have a good attitude with me and be honest.

What advice can you give campers about having a great summer?  

Just say yes to every opportunity even if it is a little out of your comfort zone. It could be what changes your whole view of things. For me that was the zipline. I hated heights when I got to camp, but now love doing zipline stuff when I get the opportunity.

What are your hopes for this summer?

I hope to have a good time and give campers some amazing memories.

Meet the Counselor: Abby Edwards

This summer, we continue our wonderful tradition of Camp Spring Creek ties with Australia! Along with counselor Luke Kaldas and tutor Renya Seelig, counselor Abby Edwards will be joining us from Down Under! Counseling is a perfect role for Abby, who has a background in social work and friends describe as patient and empathetic. But she's also an avid hiker. We are sure she will fit right in at camp!


Tell us a little bit about the place where you grew up.

I grew up in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia where there is a lot of bushland. As a kid, I grew up on some property with pet cows, chickens, dogs, a goat and some sheep. I spent a lot of my time playing outside with my two older brothers.

What do you do during the school year?

For the past four years during the school year, I had been studying my Bachelor of Social Work, I graduated this last year. This year I have been working as a Person-Centred Support Worker within the disability and mental health sectors.

Have you worked with children before?

Yes, I have worked with children during my studies through work experience and placements. As a teenager, I also did babysitting and grew up taking care of and spending time with my many younger cousins.

What were you like when you were a child?

I asked my family to answer this one for me. They said I was easy going and a bit of a tom boy as I grew up hanging around my brothers and their friends. They also said that they had a very hard time getting me out of bed in the mornings but luckily since then this has changed, and I have turned into an early bird.

How would your friends describe your personality?

I asked my best friend of 18 years to answer this one and she said, “I would say empathetic, compassionate, dry sense of humour, attentive listener, good communicator, creative and artistic, comfortable within yourself, intuitive and physically fit and active and motivated.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

I really enjoy working out, getting artistic: mostly painting with watercolours, reading books, getting out in nature, playing with my dogs, and spending time with my friends and family.

What’s something campers would be surprised to find out about you?

Maybe that I’m a vegetarian and I can do the splits.

What’s a special game or skill you’re excited about sharing with campers this summer?

I’m excited to use my Social Work skills and be active with the kids.

What can campers do to make you smile? What should they avoid doing around you?

If the campers are enjoying themselves and having a good time and I can’t really think of something they should avoid doing around me as I am a patient person.

What is your favourite outdoor activity?

I like hiking and walking outdoors and enjoy doing this in bushland around my house.

What advice can give to campers to have a great summer away from home?

To try and make the most out of camp and to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.

What are your hopes for this summer?

To help the campers make progress and reach their goals and to have a lot of fun.


Meet the Tutor: Susan Nolan


Over 30 years ago, while teaching first grade, Susan Nolan encountered a student whose verbal intelligence was "off the charts," but who struggled with reading. His mother arranged for Susan to tutor him after school for several years, but, she says, she saw frustratingly little progress. When the student was finally tested and diagnosed with dyslexia, the child’s mother offered to help pay for Susan to attend an Orton-Gillingham training during the summer. It was “transformational,” she says. “Not only for him but for me.” She wondered why she had never been taught how to teach this way before. Not long after that, she began coaching each summer for an accredited Orton-Gillingham Training Program offered through the Scottish-Rite Children’s Dyslexia Center and Miami University of Ohio.

 She later pursued her masters in Reading Education and after that, a Ph.D. in Reading and Language Arts from Ohio University, where she is now an Associate Lecturer in Teacher Education. In addition to teaching, Susan works with local school districts on developing professional development opportunities for teachers.

Through the years, as she has continued to pursue higher levels of Orton-Gillingham certification, Susan has regularly attended Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Trainers conferences. It was at the annual conference in 2017 that Susan met Susie and tutor Renya Seelig and first learned about Camp Spring Creek.

“I was so intrigued,” says Susan. The international character of the campers and the counselors, the mix of tutoring and enriching activities: “The more Susie talked about it, the more I knew I had to come visit.” Because it was a bit different than the training she received, she was curious about the way O-G was implemented at camp.

Fate intervened, and before even seeing camp for the first time, Susan had agreed to come tutor for the summer. The experience she says “broadened my perspective on how you can implement O-G in different ways and in different settings and still see progress.” The experience of tutoring at camp in the summer of 2017 also supplied her with new strategies to bring back to her university students.

But by far the most rewarding part of the experience, she says, was working with the campers: “There’s a unique bond created in working with the kids day after day,” dining with them and seeing them outside of the tutoring setting. She was impressed with “the degree of confidence” the campers took away from camp. “They have an hour of tutoring and an hour of study hall each day and in between, swimming, woodshop, and day trips that add to their self-edification. They bring that back to their tutoring the next day,” she adds, continually facing new challenges and mastering them. Being engaged in camp life round the clock, says Susan was “the hardest fun I’ve ever had.”

Thankfully, she’s agreed to return this year for another summer and we know there are campers who are looking forward to seeing her again. Outstanding educators like Susan are part of what makes Camp Spring Creek so special! 


Meet the Tutor: Jennifer Baughman


A passion for education is something that runs in Jennifer Baughman's family. Her husband Steve is an educator, too and both of them will be joining us at camp this summer! But along with her serious side, Jennifer has a spirit of adventure. We've got a feeling she'll fit right in at CSC! We asked Jennifer to tell us a little more about herself here: 

Where are you from and what do you do during the school year? 

 I am from Rock Hill, South Carolina. During the school year, I teach high school English at an alternative high school. I teach students who have been removed from their schools for behavior reasons.   

What inspired you to learn the Orton-Gillingham approach? 

My main inspiration has really been my husband, Steve. He has been working with O-G materials for several years now, and his enthusiasm has transferred to me. 

What are some of your most memorable moments as a teacher? 

There have been so many times. Perhaps one of the most rewarding was when South Carolina required an exit exam, and I worked with students who had finished the class requirements but not the exit exam requirement to graduate from high school. Every student that I worked with passed their exit exams. Several students that I worked with had learning disabilities which made the test very difficult. One student, David, worked so hard and struggled so much. He worked full time during the day and worked with me during an evening class time. His original score was very low, but he passed and we were both so happy.     

What made you want to work at camp this summer?                    

I love to see students excited about what they are learning and for them to see and feel success in what they are doing.

What can campers do to make you smile? 

Just going on the journey of learning with each student will bring me joy.    

What is something campers would be surprised to learn about you? 

I am a quiet person, so I think people are surprised at my adventurous side. I have been rappelling and spelunking. I'd love to go skydiving, but haven't been yet.  

What are your hopes for this summer? 

I hope this summer to make a difference for campers and to help them gain the confidence they need to succeed.


Meet the Counselors: Bradley Stitt


Counselor-to-be Bradley Stitt joins us from the banks of the Mersey: Liverpool, home of the Beatles, Liverpool F.C., and so much more! A traveler, adventurer, footballer, and mountain bike enthusiast, we have a feeling Bradley will find plenty to enjoy in Western North Carolina! We asked him to share more about himself here. 

Tell us a little bit about the place where you grew up.

I grew up and still live in Liverpool in the North of England. It's quite a big city with lots of activists to do and see but mostly famous for its two football teams and home of The Beatles!

What do you do during the school year?

I'm still at school! I'm studying for an Engineering masters degree all year round before having the summer off, but I'm due to finish this May before I come to camp.

Have you worked with children before?

I have always been the older cousin to the children in my family and always have had great fun looking after them! Other than that, I have had one job working at a space-themed activity center where I would run activities for children and school groups. This was great fun and I can only imagine the experience will be better on camp.

What were you like when you were a child?

Surprisingly, I was always a goody two-shoes as a child! I would always follow the rules and well behaved. However that didn't stop me from being adventurous and getting stuck in when it come to meeting other children and play parks!

How would your friends describe your personality?

I always seem to make my friends laugh, I am the wise one in my friendship group who everyone comes to for advice! Especially when it comes to rounding everyone up for an adventure!

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I love to just relax and take my mind off work and my studying. Going out with friends either to somewhere like the cinema or outdoors like mountain biking is always a good idea in my book!

What’s something campers would be surprised to find out about you?

For a short while, I was part of the British military, but this means I have a few unique camping skills that I hope to teach!

What’s a special game or skill you’re excited about sharing with campers this summer?

It has to be football (soccer). It's a game that can be shared regardless of ability or age. There are lots of different games and activists I can do with the campers involving a football that I use to love as a child and I can't wait!

What can campers do to make you smile? What should they avoid doing around you?

You'll defiantly get on my good side if you involve everyone in the actives and have a buzz of happiness about you! Avoid any bullying or nastiness and I'm sure I'll get along just fine with all of the campers!

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Defiantly mountain biking, I love the technical ability and speed that I am able to generate when I am riding!

What advice can give to campers to have a great summer away from home?

Like me, just get stuck in and enjoy yourself! It's going to be an amazing summer so try everything and meet new people!

What are your hopes for this summer?

My hopes are to just have a once in a lifetime summer at Camp Spring Creek! Meet new people and try stuff I never thought I would! I'm prepared for an amazing summer!

Awards! A Camp Spring Creek Tradition

Lots of camps have traditions and Camp Spring Creek is no exception. One that we think is unique to our camp is Awards Night, held the evening before each departure day. Everyone gets dressed up, gifts are exchanged and there's always a great dessert. One thing that's extra special about Camp Spring Creek awards, though, is that it's not just staff giving awards to campers. Campers decide on awards for staff, too. 

Awards can be serious or silly, heartfelt or hilarious. But there are two things that make our awards really stand out. First, EVERYONE gets one, because we truly believe that there is something amazing about each member of our community. Second, they reflect how close the Camp Spring Creek community becomes over the summer. Our staff members recognize what makes each camper unique. They share in their triumphs and their struggles. Our campers bond with their counselors and tutors. They like to tease them, but Awards Night can be a time to say something deeply emotional that can be hard to otherwise put into words: Thanks for being there for me, this summer or Thanks for caring can be said in an award like the "Always There" award. 

We're looking forward to seeing what wonderful awards our campers and staff members come up with this summer! 


Meet the Counselors: Laura Fleckney

Laura Fleckney, future Camp Spring Creek counselor. Laura grew up around cars and racing, so we're pretty sure she'll love North Carolina!

Laura Fleckney, future Camp Spring Creek counselor. Laura grew up around cars and racing, so we're pretty sure she'll love North Carolina!

This stylish young woman is Laura Fleckney, who will be joining us this summer as a counselor! Laura hails from Bedfordshire, England, where she works at a preschool and as a nanny for two young boys. This won't be Laura's first time in the US: she once worked as a nanny in Northern Virginia. Laura is a fan of anything vintage: vintage cars, vintage clothes and the music of Elvis Presley. Laura loves crafting and is excited to get to the North Art barn to help our campers with fun projects this summer. We asked Laura to share a little more about herself here. 

You’ve got a lot of experience with children. What’s your secret to keeping kids happy and engaged?

Supporting children’s interests is huge and I feel it’s really important to help children extend their ideas and knowledge in ways they find exciting and engaging. 

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

I enjoy walking, there’s lots of countryside around where I live and I love Sunday strolls and bike rides along the canal in the summer. I also like camping, me and my family go away drag racing at weekends with my dad. I Love to go on Day trips to the seaside-rain or shine!

How would your friends describe you?

I asked my friends and one responded: “I would describe you as the most caring and friendly of people, basically the best friend I have ever had. someone that I can always rely on and is always there for others, artistic and creative especially in the way you dress and see the world through your 1950's eyes. You have an everlasting love for Elvis that goes beyond anything, you’re passionate, fun, bubbly and you’re a people person. You connect and communicate extremely well with others and support and encourage others” This brought a tear to my eye... I’m very lucky to have such an amazing supportive close group of friends.

What’s your favorite dessert? 

Anything chocolate, I am a total chocoholic! Our American friends love English chocolate. I’ll bring some with me to camp!! 

Is there a game or craft that you’d like to teach campers this summer?

Yes! I would love to get the campers doing some sewing and making their own things to use around camp, e.g. pool bags. Steve is going to get two sewing machines for the art barn so this will be very exciting!

Morning person or night person?

Morning person..... once I’ve had a good English cup of tea! 

What’s your Hogwarts house? : )

 I like Harry Potter but I have to admit I haven’t seen all of the films  so it’s got to be Hogwarts!

What can campers do to win your heart? : )

Just try their best and be happy! Team spirit is huge and supporting each other through their camp journey will make a massive impact.  I will always encourage having fun and being in the art barn allows the children to do just this and express themselves and their interests, I’m excited to meet the fellow staff and all the campers  

What will campers be surprised to learn about you?

Well, I’m sure it won’t be much of a secret  but I’m completely in love with Elvis Presley! I go out jiving at the weekends and love to dance!

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I’m most looking forward to meeting new people and making a difference, and giving the campers the summer of a lifetime. I am sure I will have the summer of a lifetime too! I’m so excited to get on that plane and meet everyone!

Laura (second from left) at her sister's wedding!

Laura (second from left) at her sister's wedding!


Should You Send Your Child To A Private School?

Students at the Gow School in South Wales, New York, a 6-12 school for students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences. 

Students at the Gow School in South Wales, New York, a 6-12 school for students with dyslexia and language-based learning differences. 

Every parent of a child with a learning difference considers this question at one time or another: do I need to send my child to a private school? In this guest blog post, Jennifer Bamann of the Gow School shares her insight below. Many thanks to all our friends at the Gow School for their continued friendship. 


How do you know when it's time? 

Every day in my office I get a phone call that goes a little like this:

“I am just calling for some information about your school. I have a son/daughter who has been struggling in school since elementary school. We have tried everything, extra tutors, resource room help, even summer programs, but it hasn’t gotten any better. I don’t want to have to switch my child’s school, but we are running out of options.”

I understand the struggle it was for each parent to even pick up the phone to make the phone call. They are frustrated and emotionally spent and not sure what to do next. They love the idea of a school that caters to their child’s learning profile, but the thought of sending their son or daughter off to a boarding school seems impossible.

The benefits of your child going to a school that teaches specifically to the learning style of your child are numerous, but how do you know when it is time to take that step? There seem to be two large signs:

1. Even with all of the extra help and support, your child’s reading still has not progressed

2. You start to see signs of that their social and emotional health is being affected.

There are many options for families to explore when it comes to schools that cater to specific learning needs. The boarding high schools are typically meant for the student to stay for the duration of their high school career, with an outcome of college placement. There are programs designed for a few years, hopefully with an outcome of transitioning back to a traditional school.  Most of these schools are designed for a younger student, typically grades 2 to 8.

So when you know when the time is right? How do you know if your child is ready for this?  The most successful transitions happen when both parents and their child are both invested.  Making the decision for your child without them being on board is not recommended. Your child needs to visit the school, talk to the students and faculty and be able to visualize him ro herself at the school. Also, an acknowledgement that this moment in time might not work, but perhaps in a year or two. Making the decision to shelf the idea for a period of time is a brave thing to do. 

There is so much information out there regarding schools. My recommendation is to look under every rock: websites, social media, and printed material. Ask to speak with current and past parents, they will be your best resources. 

Jennifer Bamann is Associate Director of Admissions at The Gow School


Meet the Counselors: Kathi Maier

Future counselor Kathi (second from left) in a traditional dirndl from her native Austria!

Future counselor Kathi (second from left) in a traditional dirndl from her native Austria!

One of the best qualities a camp counselor can have is a love for children. Future Camp Spring Creek counselor Katharina Maier (who goes by Kathi) is training to be a teacher and got lots of experience with children as an older sister, so we're sure she'll be a perfect fit! Kathi's crafting and costume making skills are going to come in handy at camp and we're hoping she'll teach our campers some songs in Austrian German! She tells us more about herself here. Please join us in welcoming Kathi to camp this summer! 

Tell us about where you grew up.

I grew up in a small village on the countryside. It’s that type of village where you have to name the closest city, because otherwise, nobody would have a clue where it is. However, I love my old home. There are many farms and woods. If I need a place to relax, I would always go there. 

What do you do during the school year?

Most of the time I am at university studying for my teacher trainee program. But I am also working in a supermarket on weekends and as a private tutor.

Have you worked with children before?

Since I am the oldest child in my family, I was always around children and started looking after them when I was pretty young. Now, since I am a teacher trainee, I work a lot with children and also teach them in my practical school training. Apart from that I am also babysitting and, as mentioned before, working as a private tutor regularly.

What were you like when you were a child?

I was a pretty calm child most of the time. But I could be very lively when I got excited for something. If I wanted to do something I was the most motivated person around.

What made you want to work at Camp Spring Creek?

After seeing a bit of the camp and reading about it, I immediately know that I would love to work here. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their time in the photos I found and the place looks lovely. Furthermore, I would love to gain more experience for my teacher training program and I think Camp Spring Creek is the perfect place for that.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Most of the time I like to get artsy and spend my free time with drawing, sketching and crafting. Taking my painting utensils, sitting somewhere and listening to some music is probably the most relaxing thing to do for me. However, I also like to meet my friends or go for walks.

How do your friends describe your personality?

After asking them, they said that I am a very trustworthy person that’s always on time. They feel like I would never skip out on them and if something’s wrong they can always come to me for talking.

Are you a morning person or a night person?

Probably more a night person. I don’t have any problems with getting up and I love mornings in the summer, but sometime sleeping a bit longer is way too alluring. 

What is currently your favorite type of music?

At the moment I love listening to swing or jazz music.

What can campers do to make you smile? What should they avoid doing around you?

The thing that’ll make me very happy is seeing the campers having a great time at camp. It makes me really happy to see other people being happy.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I love to play Frisbee or volleyball with my friends in the park or to go for a swim in my parent’s pool.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

I think the most important part of being happy is accepting yourself as the great person you are.

What advice can you give to campers that have a great summer away from home?

Make the best out of the time at camp! Make a lot of friends and have fun. Trust us that will give our best to make this the best summer you’ve had.

What are your hopes for this summer?

I hope to make lots of new friends there, from what I’ve read the other counselors are super nice as well. Also, to have a great time with the campers and do tons of exciting activities!