Meet the Counselors: Kuba Hernik

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Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small city about 100 km from the capital, Warsaw. To be honest, there isn’t much to do there because the city is in more of an industrial area, so my friends and I always had to be creative with organizing our free time. The good thing about living there is that it’s in the central part of the country. You are able to easily travel to the mountains, or go to Warsaw, whether you want to spend time more actively or just grab a taste of the city lifestyle.

What do you do during the school year? 

During the year I focus on studying. I was studying Spanish and next year I plan to start learning Chinese, which for sure will be a huge challenge. I also travel a lot, trying to go abroad a couple of times a year. I always go to different countries in order to learn about new cultures.

Have you ever worked at a camp or with kids before?

Two years ago, I started working at a big hotel in Spain as an entertainer, switching weekly between working with kids and adults. I spent three months there and I liked it so much that the next year I decided to repeat the experience. We had a great time and I will always have great memories from that period.

What were you like as a child?

As a child I was always very active, spending entire days outside playing with other kids. I used to go to two different camps every holiday. One would be a basketball camp, and the other one more like hiking camp, where we were exploring the area and going for long trips. 

 What’s your favorite group game/activity or sport? 

My favorite group sport is definitely basketball, as I spent my whole childhood playing it, but at the same time I’m a huge fan of football. In Poland, literally every kid plays football, wearing his favorite player’s jersey and trying to copy his signature moves. I always wore Ronaldinho’s or C. Ronaldo’s.

What do you like to do you in your free time?

I like to spend my free time with my friends, just hanging out or go to the gym, where I work out mostly with my brother. I also like to connect a little bit with the nature, hiking, or chill at the lake.

What about your culture and language are you excited to share with campers? 

It will be very interesting, because Polish is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I would like to share with all the campers about delicious Polish food and tell them about our everyday habits.

What do you think campers will be surprised to learn this summer? 

That even though we are from such different countries, we have so much in common and can learn from each other.

What advice can you give to campers about having a successful summer? 

I think the more you integrate with other campers, the better you will feel at camp and for sure you will fully appreciate the time spend with your new friends.

Meet the Counselors: Marlen Hahn

We’re so excited that Marlen Hahn will be joining us this summer as a girls’ counselor! This truly international young woman is multi-lingual and multi-talented. We’re already hoping for zumba in the pool house with Marlen leading the way! Please join us in welcoming Marlen!

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Where are you from? Tell us a little about where you grew up.

I grew up in Germany, Belgium, and France. My father works in the administration of the German armed forces. That's why I had the opportunity to grow up in three different countries. When I was four and a half years old, we moved to Belgium, where we lived at the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Forces in Europe. There I first attended an international kindergarten and after that, an international school. Afterwards, we moved to France, where I attended a French/international school as well. Since 2007, I’ve been back in Germany and live near Dortmund (and slightly miss my nomadic life).

What do you do during the school year?

I am in the fourth semester of studying English and economics to become a teacher for vocational schools. I spend most of my time during the year studying. But if there's time, I love to travel and to learn new things. 

Tell us a little about your family.

I am an only child. I live with my mom and she's my best friend. We're a great team and have a fabulous relationship. My dad doesn't live close to us, so I don't see him that often but we see each other a couple times a year. Even thought they’re not together, my parents get along with each other and we spend a lot of time with each other. 

 What do you like to do in your free time?

In 2015, doing Zumba became a passion for me. It helps to burn energy and to clear one's mind. I also love painting and reading. Because of my studies, I read more for university than for my own purposes. Once a week, I go swimming. If I see something beautiful, I have to capture it with the camera to make memories. Spending time with friends and my family is always fun and helpful. I think it's important to have people you can talk to. Besides talking, watching Disney movies and taking walks are also things I do for quality time with my friends. 

 What would campers be surprised to learn about you?

Even if I appear to be serious, the kids can have a lot of fun with me and can learn that I'm a warm-hearted, open-minded, and sensitive person. 

 What are you looking foward to sharing with campers about your life/culture this summer?

I look forward to comparing games I played as a child with those of the campers. And I also want to share language skills, if the kids are interested. A cultural exchange will be great and interesting! 

 What advice can you give to campers about being away from home?

It's totally normal that we miss our home and family. But the international staff is also far away from home, so we are all in the same situation. It's normal to feel sad sometimes, but we can talk about it whenever the kids want to. We will have fun and do our best to make this summer the best one so far so that we can talk and daydream about it with our family and friends at the end of summer. 

 What can the campers do to get on your good side?

Having fun, being themselves, and especially being honest is important. Even if the situation isn't that good, honesty will bring everyone forward. With fun and honesty, the summer will be a great one!

It doesn't matter if a child is more introverted or extroverted. As long as we are all ourselves, the work and life together will be marvelous!

 What do you hope to get out of this summer?

A lifetime experience! I think the time at camp will help me to grow and to learn new things about myself. I want to learn from the kids and my colleagues and have a great summer experience with a lot of fun together at camp and in nature. And at the end I hope that the kids will know that learning is a lifelong process. 

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Meet the Counselors: Reuben Bryant

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Next up in our Meet the Counselor series: Reuben Bryant! We’re thrilled to have another Scot on board. Reuben has the distinction of being the only international counselor we’ve had who not only knows about but has played American football! He’s not only sporty, but musical, too. We asked him to tell us a little more about himself here.

Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from?

I am from Aberdeen, Scotland, where I am a part of Aberdeen University. I am in my third year, studying History. I am also a staff manager of a club.

Have you ever worked at a summer camp or with kids before?

I have previously worked with adults and young teenagers in social care before. I used to help them read, write, and other everyday activities.

What made you want to come work at camp this summer?

I have friends take part in the experience and I have only heard positive things. This will also be my first time in the US, which I am very excited about!

What’s your favorite group game/activity/sport?

I have taken part in multiple sports. I have experience in boxing, mixed martial arts, soccer, rugby and American Football. I also have the intention of starting rock climbing in the near future.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading books from all sorts of genres. I also have a keen interest in cooking and music. I currently play guitar but I also want to learn drums and piano. My favourite genre of music is Soul, but I listen to a wide variety of music. Then in my spare time, I just love spending time with friends, often incorporating my hobbies and spending time with friends together.

How would your friends describe you?

I like to think I am a positive individual and I am sure my friends would say the same.

What are your hopes for this summer?

I am incredibly excited for the experience. I can't wait for everything it holds in store.

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Meet the Counselors: Peyton Yearick

We’re thrilled to welcome Peyton Yearick back to camp this summer! Last summer, Peyton served as camp nurse. This summer, he’ll be a boys’ counselor. Peyton is a pre-med student at Nashville’s Belmont University and has danced with the Nashville Ballet! He has lived in Spruce Pine since middle school, so he’s right at home at camp. We know that return campers will be excited that Peyton is also coming back. Peyton tells us a little more about himself below.

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You have a long history with the van der Vorst family - how did you meet?

I lived in Nashville, Tennessee before moving to Spruce Pine in the sixth grade. I first met Anina back in seventh grade. We were placed into the same science class and paired together as science partners. From that moment, we became inseparable and would hangout almost every afternoon—going to the park to play or just staying inside being crafty. Anina is my best friend and from this friendship I became close to her family. They are the most caring, genuine, and loving people I have ever met and I am so grateful for their support and friendship.

Did you ever think that you’d work at camp one day?

No, I never imagined myself working at camp. I was an active child growing up, mostly due to involvement with the local community theater, Parkway Playhouse and dancing at Appalachian Dance Theatre. Because of those extra curricular activities, my summers were all booked up! As I grew older my primary focus was on dancing, which led me to becoming a part of the second company of Nashville Ballet. It wasn’t until I became interested in medicine and saw the importance of helping others that I viewed working at Camp Spring Creek a wonderful opportunity. 

 What were some of the highlights of your first summer at Camp Spring Creek?

Oh, where to begin? There were so many highlight moments of my time at Camp Spring Creek last summer. One moment that stands out the most was going whitewater rafting. It was my first time rafting with the Nantahala Outdoor Center and being on the Nolichucky River. I was so excited to tackle the rapids with the help of the campers. I can’t wait to head back and experience all the fun I had again. Also, I can’t forget to mention the moment I saw the camper’s writing samples from their first day compared to their last. It was completely amazing and inspiring to see the overall improvement academically; all while enjoying the extra activities of camp life. 

What surprised most about the campers?

The campers who come to Camp Spring Creek are without a doubt brilliant, talented, and kind. It is so special to watch them continue their growth socially and academically during their time here. It is always sad to say goodbye, but knowing that you were a part of their journey is something to hold close to your heart. 

What are you looking forward to in your new role as counselor this year?

I’m looking forward to building new friendships with the staff, counselors, and campers. This will be my first time as a camp counselor and I am trilled for the opportunity. I can’t wait to become a lifeguard and lead some of the outdoor activities. My favorites are dodgeball and paintball.  

You’re a local. Give campers and counselors some insider tips on some of the best things to do near camp in the summer!

Some of my favorite things to do while I’m home is to hike the Roan Mountain with Anina and travel to Asheville, North Carolina to enjoy a little bit of the city life. I am thankful to live in such a beautiful scenic area. There are many trails to hike and explore. One of my favorite places to go is in Boone, North Carolina: Rough Ridge. It’s a beautiful hike that offers a gorgeous overlook onto the surrounding mountains. 

What advice can you give to campers coming to Camp Spring Creek for the first time?

My main advice would be to not be afraid to be yourself! Camp is going to be so much fun and I promise you are going to make so many new friends; some will even turn into life long friendships. Cherish each and every moment and never be afraid to ask for help from one of the staff members. 

Finish this sentence: On skit night, Peyton can probably be found…

On skit night, Peyton can probably be found laughing at all the creative and hilarious skits that the campers came up with. Last summer, we had so many talented campers! It’s going be fun watching all the creative skits this summer.

What should campers do to get on your good side?

You are guaranteed to be on my good side if you are simply enjoying each and every -day. Seeing you enjoy camp and having fun with your friends puts the biggest smile on my face.

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Meet the Counselors: Louise Farman

Next up in our Meet the Counselors series, it’s Louise Farman, who’ll be a girls counselor. Louise hails from Newcastle in the the north of England, so she’ll be regaling us with her Geordie accent (she explains more below)! In addition to working with kids, Louise has her nurse’s qualifications! She’s an adventurous spirit who’s up for anything from archery to arts and crafts. Harry Potter fans, don’t be jealous: the picture on the left is Louise at Durham Cathedral which you may remember from many of the Potter films! Please join us in welcoming Louise!

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Where are you from? Can you tell us a little about it and what it’s known for?

I’m from Newcastle in the Northeast of England. I live near the coast where there are beautiful beaches and the buzzing city center is just a short drive away. Newcastle is known to be one of the UK’s friendliest cities and for the 'Geordie' accent, so I will speak too fast and say strange words like 'why aye man' which means yes!

What do you do during the year?

I have recently started my job as a children’s nurse, I work on a ward in a hospital where I look after children with conditions that effect the kidneys, stomach and feeding. I love my job as a nurse as I provide care for children during health and illness, although my job is challenging everyday is different and it is extremely rewarding.

Tell us about your experiences working with children.

Throughout my nurse training (which was three years) I worked as a student nurse on many different children’s wards and also worked in schools for children with additional needs. I enjoy working with young people as despite being in hospital children are resilient and continue to have a smile on their face. I have also volunteered at a residential camp for children with long-term health conditions called ‘Over the wall.’ At camp I supported campers during activities such as archery and rock climbing and I threw myself into the activities. This amazing experience was one of many reasons why I’m excited to come to Camp Spring Creek.

What were you like as a child? Did you attend camp yourself?

 I was a happy child, outgoing, always smiling, laughing lots and would be found outdoors with my friends playing sports. I loved school because I enjoy learning new things and I had amazing friends, many of whom are my friends for life. I didn’t attend a camp, but I wish I could have because I am 100 percent sure I would have loved it!

What are your hobbies/what do you like to do during your free time?

I spend most of my free time with my friends and family and find ways to keep busy by going for walks, eating lots of food, and playing board games. I like swimming, baking and seeking out new activities and adventures. I tried bouldering with my friends for the first time the other day and although I found it difficult it was something new and fun to do.

Are there any games/activities that you’re looking forward to sharing with campers?

I enjoy playing sports such as netball and rounders that I can share. I like arts and crafts so I would love to see the campers get creative.  I am most looking forward to what you can teach me!

What advice can you give to campers about being away from home/being successful at camp? 

Being away from home may be difficult at times, but remember us camp counselors are also away from home. Come chat to us as talking to someone helps. I think it is important we all support each other. While at camp we all may miss home, but it is important to get involved and make the most of the experience. I am sure time will fly by and once you’re home, you will miss camp! Also, it is important to be yourself as everyone is a unique person and individuality should be embraced.

What can campers do to get on your good side? 

Definitely you can be in my good books by making me laugh (which isn’t difficult to do), whether that is telling me a joke or a funny story. Campers who are enthusiastic, smiling and join in with the fun.

What do you hope to get out of your summer at camp?

I am looking forward to experiencing all that camp has to offer, as it is something different to everyday life at home. I’m also interested in learning about American culture. I hope the experience allows me to learn new things about myself, but also learn some new skills. I hope I meet some amazing new people and make memories I will never forget.

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Meet the Counselors: Beth Revuelta

Each year, our campers look forward to finding out more about the awesome staff they’ll get to meet over the summer. We now have a full staff of counselors on board and we’re excited to introduce you to our first girls’ counselor: Beth Revuelta! This outgoing, red-haired Scotswoman is excited to share her experiences, enthusiasm and Scottish accent with our campers. Not only is she adventurous, fun-loving and a ceilidh dancer (Scottish dancing), she’s also dyslexic! We know that our campers will be in good hands with Beth, but they’ll also be inspired by her! Beth tells us a little about herself below. Please join us in welcoming Beth to the Camp Spring Creek family!

Beth and her mum, braving the elements!

Beth and her mum, braving the elements!

What made you interested in working at Camp Spring Creek?

Dyslexia is a big part of my identity and has had a huge role in shaping who I am as a person! Working at this camp is the step in the right direction for me. I’m interested in working in this area in the future because I feel dyslexic people have a lot of hidden potential! If we support dyslexic people in discovering and mobilizing all these hidden strengths the world could be a very different place!  

Have you worked at a camp or with kids before? 

Scotland doesn’t have the same summer camp culture as North America–probably because it’s too cold! So I have never worked at camp before but have plenty experience with children! I am a Girl Guide (Scout) leader, I used to be a volunteer leader at a deaf youth club and a disabled children’s play program. I am a Saltire Awards Ambassador, helping young people getting into volunteering and I was a part of the team rolling out our Toddler Festival at my work. 

What were you like as a child? Did you attend camp yourself? 

I did go to some international jamborees with my Girl Guides, one in the Queen’s garden at Windsor Palace-some of the best holidays of my life! 

I was energetic, out-going, and unique or “ploughed my own furrow” as my mum likes to say! I loved making friends and drama/acting (which turned out very important for my future!). I was a late bloomer, the difficulties with my dyslexia were very prominent–I couldn’t read the time till I was 14 and didn’t learn to spell my full name till last year! (Beth Siobhan Revuelta!) But I’ve came into my own in high school and adulthood! 

What do you do during the school year? 

I work at a tourist attraction in Edinburgh called Camera Obscura and World of illusions. It’s a museum of optical illusions. I like to watch people get lost in the mirror maze and zap each other with the plasma balls! The top of the building is a ginormous Victorian Periscope Camera Obscura that is 165 years old. I show people how this works and give them a tour of Edinburgh using it.

What passion of yours are you excited to share with campers? 

I really love acting, improvisation and theater, so hopefully I can play some imrpov games and get some acting workshops going! 

 What’s your favourite group game/activity/sport?

I love ceilidh dancing! It’s a traditional type of Scottish dancing that is usually danced in pairs or groups. It has lots of spinning and fast music!

What do you like to do during your free time? 

I am in a gospel choir. I love going to the theater and acting, often in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! I enjoy practicing my British Sign Language skills with my deaf friends and doing yoga (mainly for good mental health!).

What advice can you give to campers about being away from home/being successful at camp? 

It’s alright to be scared, upset, or worried about being away! All of us feel that, including us adults. Please come chat with us. We’re here to listen not judge!

 I usually try to focus on the people and environment directly around me and throwing myself into the activities or helping others. That way, my worries will slowly go away.

What do you hope to get out of your summer at camp? 

I hope to pass on some things I have learned being a dyslexic that I wish I had known when I was younger, such as, you are intelligent! I hope to learn a bit more about how to teach dyslexic people and how education and dyslexia interact. I’m excited for doing outside activities and learning some more outdoor skills!

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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

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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. 

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Meet the Tutor: Lynne Huskins

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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. 

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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

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Meet the Tutor: Susan Nolan

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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! 

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