Meet the Counselors: Martin Cass

Is Martin Cass incredibly tall? Or is that just a tiny elephant in the photos above? Find out this summer when he arrives at Camp Spring Creek as one of our boys' counselors! He gives us a sneak preview into his life below (and read through to the end for the answer)! 

Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about it?

I grew up in a place called the Wirral, which is just over the water from Liverpool in the UK. (Where the Beatles came from). It is quite rural, cold and pretty boring when you have lived here. I would travel a lot to Liverpool because it’s always been more vibrant and exciting.

What do you do during the year?

Well, up until this year, I have always been in education, I recently finished my studies at one of the top drama schools in the UK, which was five days a week, 12 hours a day of intense training in things like ballet, Shakespeare, and script work. So since finishing that I have tried to have as much fun as possible, I have travelled Thailand, directed some theatre shows and started working full time in a bar.

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

Yes, I have. I was actually involved with the YEP theatre in Liverpool, and done a lot of work with the younger groups, but never in a different country so I am very excited!

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

I was an adventurous child, I loved getting stuck into activities and making a mess. I did go to a camp and I have such fond memories of it, so I cannot wait to create memories with this year’s campers.

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

I have a slight obsession with rounders. I feel like you may not know what this, is but I can easily show you, and then win you whilst playing.

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

I am obsessed with music. Live music is something I go to a lot, and also reading and writing, I love getting lost in a novel but I have always been creative so writing short stories, scripts is something I do a lot.

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

I think my best advice is to just get involved everything, make friends, be welcoming and push through the initial nerves of meeting new people and you will have the best time. Obviously, I will be there to help that!

Morning person or night person?

Definitely night time. The early mornings are going to be hilarious, and I’m sure will create some great stories.

What can campers do to get on your good side?

Treat everyone how you would like to be treated, and sing to me, all the time, except past bed time, then you sleep. And the occasional high five.

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

I hope to be able to give the campers what I was able to have when I went to summer camp, the memories, the laughs, and to be part of something that benefits them.

Here's another pic of Martin in Thailand where he met that *baby* elephant he's seen with above!

Here's another pic of Martin in Thailand where he met that *baby* elephant he's seen with above!

Meet the Counselors: Sophie Zwijnenburg

We're under two months away from the start of camp and our staff is almost completely in place. We're excited to introduce you to Sophie Zwinjnenburg, a counselor who's originally from Voorburg in the Netherlands (won't Steve be excited to have someone to share jokes with in Dutch?). We caught up with Sophie to find out a little more about her. 

What do you do during the school year? 

 

During the school year I always used to go to school, I studied pedagogics (Education in US terminology).I graduated last year. I was not feeling like starting a career yet, so now I’m in the middle of my ‘gap-year.'  I just got back from Israel where I lived, worked, and learned for seven months.

Have you ever worked at a camp before? 

This is going to be my first time and I’m super excited!

What interested you about working at Camp Spring Creek?

What I like about Camp Creek is that it’s not such a huge camp with a couple of hundred children and counselors. I like the intimacy of this camp and the real bond you can create with the children over the weeks. For me it was a must that I could work as a general counselor on the camp because I really like to do a variety of activities with the children over the weeks and not just one specific activity. Furthermore, because of my studies, I have a lot of experiences with different kinds of children amongst them children with special needs. So the fact that I can work here with dyslexic children is a big bonus. And I’m a dyslexic myself so I think I will fit right in!

What are your hobbies/favorite things to do? 

I love to be outdoors! I like to hike in beautiful landscapes and to camp and sing at the campfire while making marshmallows. Also, doing big outdoor group games like capture the flag is something I get very excited about. I’m in for any activity that includes water; swimming, canoeing, snorkelling and water-skiing (even though I’ve never done that). Snowboarding is one of my favourite hobbies and every winter you can find me in the Alps trying out new tricks and than most of the time ending up flat on my face in the snow.

What skills and activities are you excited to share with campers? 

I am a dancer so I could try to teach the campers a pirouette or two. Next to that I unfortunately don’t possess that many skills but I could teach them how to be excited about all the games, I have plenty of that!

Do you have siblings? 

I have two siblings; an older and a younger brother. Tom is two years younger than me and Chiel is four years older.

What can campers do to get on your good side? 

Being honest and friendly to everyone. Oh, and chocolate will sometimes also help to get on my good side.

What would campers be surprised to find out about you? 

I can look pretty girly but I can be wild, goofy and get dirty like a boy.

What are your favorite foods? 

I love seafood and Greek salad. Actually, pretty much everything Greek!

What advice can you give campers about how to have a great summer at camp? 

Don’t hold back; dance when you feel like dancing, sing when you feel like singing and let out that laugh when you feel it bubbling up from your belly! Enjoy every moment to the fullest and let’s make some memories!

In Her Own Words: Camper Lauren Ringwood

 

Last fall, one of our Summer 2016 campers, Lauren Ringwood (seen above) spoke before the Spruce Pine Rotary Club about dyslexia and her experience at camp. Lauren agreed to share the content of her speech here. We thought our friends would enjoy reading her eloquent words. 

Hello, members of Spruce Pine Rotary Club, my name is Lauren. I am nine years old. I am in the 4th grade at Gouge Elementary. And I am dyslexic. You all have probably heard of dyslexia and may even know a little about it. But what you don’t know is, it is actually a GIFT!

Yes... I might struggle with reading, writing, and spelling, BUT, you best believe I will be the leader in problem solving, athletics, and spatial awareness...just ask my Uncle Reid. He says I’m the best golf cart driver around!

After all, I belong to an elite “club” that includes people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and my personal favorite, Channing Tatum.

This past summer I was given the opportunity, through scholarship, to attend Camp Spring Creek in Bakersville. I got to meet campers and counselors from all over the world. Camp Spring Creek was founded in 2003 by Susie and Steve van der Vorst and is one of three residential summer camps in the US for children with dyslexia.

I spent lots of time with my tutor, Betsy. The tutors at Camp Spring Creek are all trained in Orton-Gillingham, which, my mom says, is a multi-sensory approach to learning. All I know is reading, writing and spelling are easier now.

Besides learning, I got to do some pretty cool stuff... I got to build a table in wood shop, design my own t-shirt at the art barn,  go on creek hikes...where I discovered how badly stinging nettles really do sting, and eat some of the best food you have ever tasted!

I am thankful for them because Camp Spring Creek has given me the confidence to love learning again. Some people see dyslexia and its limitations, but my teachers, my mom and the rest of my family constantly encourage me to put all those “limitations” to the test.

Thank you for letting me speak to you today. If you would like more information on dyslexia or  Camp Spring Creek you can check out their website campspringcreek.org.

Lauren's mom Jessica has kindly offered to help us with our local scholarhip fund so that students in the students in the counties near Camp Spring Creek can enjoy the same benefits that Lauren did during her summer. You can donate to that fund here. Look for Jessica's moving letter about her daughter's experience soon!

Meet the Counselors: David Colgan

Future Camp Spring Creek counselor David Colgan, back right

Future Camp Spring Creek counselor David Colgan, back right

Summer is coming closer every day and we're excited to introduce you to the wonderful staff who will be joining us! Today, say hello to David Colgan, who'll be joining us from Northern Ireland to work as a counselor. We caught up with him to find out a little more about what brings him to Camp Spring Creek this summer. We know that our campers are going enjoy getting to know David!

What do you do during the school year?

I'm a second year Biomedical Science student at Liverpool John Moores University but I recently started a job as a steward at Anfield Stadium (home to Liverpool FC). 

Have you worked at a camp before?

Back in my home,town, we have a summer scheme which I volunteered for last summer, so we took the kids everywhere from bowling to cliff jumping, which was amazing.

What made you want to work at Camp Spring Creek?

After talking to Steve, I did a bit of research on the camp and it was apparent that everyone was really close to and got on really well with one another, so it seemed to be a place I could work at but also enjoy working at.

Did you go to camp as a kid? If so, what were your favorite memories? 

When I was younger I went to the summer scheme I ended up volunteering for. My favourite part about it was meeting people from other communities that I wouldn't of met otherwise!

What's your favourite outdoor game and what fun games are you excited to share with the campers?

I'm very old school so it's hard to beat a game of tag, hide and seek or a water fight!

What would campers be surprised to learn about you?

I have the worst laugh in the world.

Note: (Now we are all very keen to make David laugh so we can find out if this is true!)

What can campers do to get on your good side?

I'm a big believer in "treat others as you would like to be treated" so by doing that they'll be in the good books.

Cat person or dog person?

Very close between the two, but dog person.

What's your favourite guilty pleasure food?

There's nothing better than some vanilla ice cream in my opinion.

David is great with kids and we know our campers are going to love spending the summer with him! Please join us in welcoming David!

Meet the Staff: Samantha Fortner

Continuing with our series on this summer's counselors and staff members, we're pleased to introduce Samantha Fortner who will be our typing teacher this summer! "Typing teacher" doesn't quite encompass all that Samantha will be doing. She will be working with campers on their digital skills, including working on presentations in Powerpoint and other software programs. We caught up with Samantha to find out more about her. 

Did you work at camp last summer, and if so, in what role?

Last summer I worked as a lifeguard at Brad Ragen Pool in Spruce Pine, NC, but I did visit camp on several occasions. I had the opportunity to participate in some weekend activities with campers, such as rollerskating and camp dances, and I ate dinner with the campers some nights.

What was your favorite thing about camp? 

My favorite thing about camp was the sense of friendship and family I felt every time I visited. I always had a wonderful time at camp and made friends with campers and counselors from all over the world. I learned so much from engaging with those different than me and I can’t wait to rekindle old friendships and make new friendships this year! The camp food was also delicious and it was something I really looked forward too each time I visited. :) 

You are finishing high school this year.  Do you know where you'll be off to next summer?  What do you think you'll major in? 

I am hoping to attend Wake Forest University in the fall of 2017 where I will double major in Elementary Education and Spanish. 

What do you like about working with kids? 

Ever since I can remember, I have loved to teach. As soon as I started pre-school, it was my innate urge to help other kids when I saw them struggling. The “light bulb” I see go off in someone’s head when they comprehend a concept I have helped them learn has always thrilled me. Then as I grew older I realized the impact my teaching had on young children and I knew I wanted to teach children as a career. I love the fact that kids have such a desire and willingness to learn new things. I want to use my abilities as a teacher to impress upon children all the knowledge that I can. 

Do you have siblings? 

I have two older brothers, Nathan and Nicholas. Nathan is 40 and Nicholas is 35. They both graduated from Virginia Tech and now have children of their own that I love very much!

What can campers do to get on your good side? : ) 

All campers need to do to get on my good side is be kind to others and be willing to help. If they do these things, they will definitely be on my good side! 

What would campers be surprised to hear about you? 

Campers might be surprised to hear that I was once on a bowling team, but I’m still very bad at bowling. 

What are your favorite hobbies? 

I love to read, swim, run, hike, and be outdoors in my free time. Camp Spring Creek is the perfect place to do all of these things!! 

You'll be doing some online work with kids. What are your favorite online games?

As a child, my favorite online games were Nancy Drew and Webkinz. Today, I love to play candy crush and 8 Ball Pool on the iPhone. 

We know that Samantha will be a great addition to camp this summer. Please join us in welcoming her to the Camp Spring Creek family!

Samantha enjoying rollerskating with the campers last summer!

Meet the Counselors: Svenja Wilke

At this time of year, we are starting to fill our camp staff for the summer. It's always an exciting time: meeting new friends and considering the possibilities that lie ahead. We're fortunate this year that we will have several returning staff members, but we're also excited to introduce you to some new ones, including counselor Svenja Wilke, who is joining us from Germany. We caught up with her to get to know her a little better. 

What do you do for work during the school year?

I am working in a day care center for children at the age of eight weeks to three years. So I’m always around kids and try to make the best out of the day for them.

Have you worked at a camp before?

No, unfortunately I didn’t. But I went to a camp myself while my training to become an educator and that was really exciting.

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

Nature can be so impressive and I like to explore it by hiking. Also I like sleeping outside, there’s a special feeling when you hear all that nature noises at night.

Do you have a game or song that you can teach campers?

Well, there are a few games that I loved when I was a child but I’ll keep them a secret until summer! 

What are your hobbies?

I like to go to the gym and swimming, read a good book, or go to the cinema with friends. But I’ve found my passion in yoga and I would love to teach the campers yoga this summer.

Other than that, I try to spend much of my free time traveling, I really love to discover different cities and cultures. This has brought me, for example, to Indonesia, Canada, and Iceland and my second home definitely became Ireland. 

From my trips, I got used to my other hobby: I love photography! I could imagine to use this at camp maybe by making a photo story together with the campers! In addition I hope I can try a few new activities this summer.

What’s your favorite dessert?

Well that definitely is ice cream, especially dark chocolate ice cream! Yummi!

What can campers do to win your heart? : )

Just keep a smile on your face and be yourself!

What will campers be surprised to learn about you?

At first I’m a little shy, but it won’t take long and after that they will have a lot of fun with me. I love singing around and acting crazy. So I think that’s a thing that would surprise them after the first impression.

What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I’m really looking forward to meet a lot of new people and taking part in an important part of the American way of life will be exciting. To spend the whole day outside, enjoy the weather and have a lot of fun with the campers could be the best thing I can imagine for summer. Also I hope I’m going to improve my English skills.

Please join us in welcoming Svenja to the Camp Spring Creek family! We can't wait to meet her in just a few months!

Behind the Scenes at an Orton-Gillingham Associate Level Training

What's it really like to take an Orton-Gillingham Associate Level training? It's intense. This first level of training covers all the basics, starting with an introduction to the English language with a level of depth that you may have never experienced before. Trainees are introduced to the history and principles behind the Orton-Gillingham approach and to the most important research on dyslexia. Have you ever heard of phonemic awareness? By the time you finish the Associate Level course, you will be well versed in it. You'll understand why multisensory approaches are important for all language learners and you'll become very comfortable with the term "decoding." 

There is a lot to cover in the Associate Level training, but that's only part of the requirement for achieving Associate Level training: a practicum is also required. This extensive training ensures that all learners taught with Orton-Gillingham methods get the best possible instruction and are set on the path to success. Susie is working with a wonderful group of trainees in Australia right now. Here's a look behind the scenes at this Associate Level training. We've got another one coming up in Spruce Pine in April. Check here for more information!

Binders open, minds engaged!

Binders open, minds engaged!

Multiple spellings? Susie's got you covered. 

Multiple spellings? Susie's got you covered. 

Engaging (and identifying) the different parts of the brain. 

Engaging (and identifying) the different parts of the brain. 

Lots of notebooks! Lots of sticky notes and index cards!

Lots of notebooks! Lots of sticky notes and index cards!

All the essentials!

All the essentials!

Copious notetaking

Copious notetaking

Keeping learning multisensory

Keeping learning multisensory

Learning the all-important pencil grip!

Learning the all-important pencil grip!

Susie Goes To Australia!

Susie's qualifications as a Fellow in the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators puts her in a rare group of fewer than 200 professionals worldwide. This high level of expertise makes her a sought-after trainer for teachers and tutors looking to develop their own expertise in Orton-Gilligham and multisensory methods. Next month, Susie will bring her skills and experience "down under" with a 10-day Associate Level training in Mount Waverley, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, February 5-15, thanks to our tutor and camp mom, Renya Seelig.  "Susie's knowledge and experience in Orton-Gillingham and multisensory education will be invaluable to those training with her," says Seelig. "Her 30 years of expertise will allow the trainees to gain a deeper understanding of how O-G can impact on the learning of children and adults with dyslexia. Susie’s course will allow those attending the training to walk a way with an in-depth knowledge of all of the specific elements of Orton-Gillingham, best practices of implementing Orton-Gillingham, role play lessons and the opportunity to ask unlimited questions of how best to apply their new knowledge in both one to one settings and classroom settings." Do you know anyone in Australia who would benefit from this training? Please contact us for more information and for details on how to register. This promises to be an amazing opportunity to share knowledge and skills across cultures and for those who care about dyslexia and education to learn from each other and create community across international lines! 

Susie's qualifications as a Fellow in the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators puts her in a rare group of fewer than 200 professionals worldwide. This high level of expertise makes her a sought-after trainer for teachers and tutors looking to develop their own expertise in Orton-Gilligham and multisensory methods. Next month, Susie will bring her skills and experience "down under" with a 10-day Associate Level training in Mount Waverley, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, February 5-15, thanks to our tutor and camp mom, Renya Seelig. 

"Susie's knowledge and experience in Orton-Gillingham and multisensory education will be invaluable to those training with her," says Seelig. "Her 30 years of expertise will allow the trainees to gain a deeper understanding of how O-G can impact on the learning of children and adults with dyslexia. Susie’s course will allow those attending the training to walk a way with an in-depth knowledge of all of the specific elements of Orton-Gillingham, best practices of implementing Orton-Gillingham, role play lessons and the opportunity to ask unlimited questions of how best to apply their new knowledge in both one to one settings and classroom settings."

Do you know anyone in Australia who would benefit from this training? Please contact us for more information and for details on how to register. This promises to be an amazing opportunity to share knowledge and skills across cultures and for those who care about dyslexia and education to learn from each other and create community across international lines! 

Save the Date! The FIRST-EVER Camp Spring Creek Reunion!

Have you heard the news? We're hosting our first-ever CAMP SPRING CREEK REUNION this summer on July 15!

In the summer of 2003 when our first three campers arrived, it would have been hard to imagine how much camp has grown. What was it like back in those early days? We asked one of our first counselors, Chris Ellenbogen, to reflect on early camp memories.

"One of the first things that comes to mind is playing paintball with the campers and being surprised at how good they were. Also, teaching the kids how to water ski," he says. Then there was the mountaintop hike where he and a fellow counselor were able to save a camper from walking into a nest of yellow jackets (but not without getting stung themselves!). 

Chris in the early days at Camp Spring Creek!

Chris in the early days at Camp Spring Creek!

Now a professional photographer, Chris hopes to join us for the reunion!

Please join us on July 15, 2017 for a reunion that will bring together campers and staff, past and present. We invite you to 'camp at camp,' reunite with old camp friends, play games and share memories.

Stay tuned for more details on what promises to be a great time to reconnect and meet new friends. If you know a former campers or staff members who might be interested, please help us spread the news! 

 

The One-to-One Initiative at Work

Camp Spring Creek's mission is to empower children with dyslexia to become confident, inspired achievers. That mission extends not only to the children who attend camp, but those in our community who struggle with reading. As part of our mission, we launched the One-to-One Initiative this fall, working with trained tutors and teachers in Mitchell County Schools. Mitchell County is a high poverty area and the school district has limited resources for providing tutoring. But the district has been very open to and interested in training teachers to help struggling readers and many of the district's elementary teachers have trained with Susie. 

Pictured above is Lynne Huskins, kindergarden teacher at Gouge Elementary. She completed a 35-hour training with Susie earlier this year. She's working with her students here to learn where letters are placed on lined paper. In the photo on the right, she's using a tactile/kinesthetic mat for teaching letter sound, letter formation and the names of letters.  

In the photos below, our tutor LissaJo McMahan is working with kindergarteners, using a multisensory technique to help students match sounds and letters. She will continue to meet with these student throughout the year. This work is done in small groups because the students are still at the very early stages in reading development, so they have not fallen very far behind yet. 

The work Camp Spring Creek does through the One-to-One Initiative is thanks in large part to the generousity of our donors. Thank you for making this important work possible!

A Look Back at 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we take a look back (mostly in pictures) at the year that was. From snowy beginnings last January to a successful end of the year at camp, here's what happened in our world this year!

January: The year started with these intrepid trainees (including some connected to our friends at Open Doors of Asheville) braving the snow to come to our Spruce Pine outreach center for Orton-Gillingham training. This session sparked connections that continued throughout the year: several trainees returned to tutor at camp, including (far left) Liane Measelle, (fourth from left) Betsy Bankston), and (fourth from right) Kristine Oblock.

January: The year started with these intrepid trainees (including some connected to our friends at Open Doors of Asheville) braving the snow to come to our Spruce Pine outreach center for Orton-Gillingham training. This session sparked connections that continued throughout the year: several trainees returned to tutor at camp, including (far left) Liane Measelle, (fourth from left) Betsy Bankston), and (fourth from right) Kristine Oblock.

February: Professional connetions are important! Here Susie joins Diana King (third from left) and colleagues at the Southwest International Dyslexia Association's annual meeting in Albuquerque. These meetings are important to help ensure that campers get the benefit of the latest research and thinking on dyslexia education. Plus, they're a great way to meet potential campers and their families as well as potential tutors!

February: Professional connetions are important! Here Susie joins Diana King (third from left) and colleagues at the Southwest International Dyslexia Association's annual meeting in Albuquerque. These meetings are important to help ensure that campers get the benefit of the latest research and thinking on dyslexia education. Plus, they're a great way to meet potential campers and their families as well as potential tutors!

April: Friendships down end when camp is over! In April, Susie and Anina had a mini-reunion with campers at a pizza place!

April: Friendships down end when camp is over! In April, Susie and Anina had a mini-reunion with campers at a pizza place!

May: The progress on the boys cabins was rapid!

May: The progress on the boys cabins was rapid!

Camp Summer: Taking aim at our goals.

Camp Summer: Taking aim at our goals.

Camp Summer: Riding the rapids with Nantahala Outdoor Center!

Camp Summer: Riding the rapids with Nantahala Outdoor Center!

Camp Summer: Keep your eye on the ball!

Camp Summer: Keep your eye on the ball!

Camp Summer: Making progress. 

Camp Summer: Making progress. 

Camp summer: Diving in.

Camp summer: Diving in.

Camp Summer A big adventure on the Virginia Creeper Trail!

Camp Summer A big adventure on the Virginia Creeper Trail!

Camp summer: Making memories!

Camp summer: Making memories!

September: Training time! 

September: Training time! 

October: A very special writing workshop with Diana King (center)!

October: A very special writing workshop with Diana King (center)!

March: More training in March! Susie hosted three trainees at our Spruce Pine outreach center.

March: More training in March! Susie hosted three trainees at our Spruce Pine outreach center.

April: The amazing Steve made progress on the two new boys' cabins. 

April: The amazing Steve made progress on the two new boys' cabins. 

Early June: The finished products!

Early June: The finished products!

Camp Summer: Reading is also an adventure!

Camp Summer: Reading is also an adventure!

Camp Summer: A good round of gaga ball is always a hit. 

Camp Summer: A good round of gaga ball is always a hit. 

Camp Summer: Relaxing with a good book. 

Camp Summer: Relaxing with a good book. 

Camp Summer: The gang's all here!

Camp Summer: The gang's all here!

Camp Summer: Rainy day games. 

Camp Summer: Rainy day games. 

Camp Summer: So many accomplishments to celebrate!

Camp Summer: So many accomplishments to celebrate!

Camp Summer: Ollie had a few fans! Saying goodbye is hard.

Camp Summer: Ollie had a few fans! Saying goodbye is hard.

October: At the Day of Dyslexia at Lenoir-Rhyne University with Ishani and Renya!

October: At the Day of Dyslexia at Lenoir-Rhyne University with Ishani and Renya!

November: Camp Spring Creek is honored by the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce for contributions to the community!

November: Camp Spring Creek is honored by the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce for contributions to the community!

December: Our One-on-One Initiative in Mitchell County Schools is underway!

December: Our One-on-One Initiative in Mitchell County Schools is underway!

December: Our wonderful tutor Liane working with students in Mitchell County schools. 

December: Our wonderful tutor Liane working with students in Mitchell County schools. 

It's been a wondeful year at Camp Spring Creek! We wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and look forward to spending time with you next year! 

A Blue Ribbon Day!

Today, our friends at Bald Creek Elementary in Yancey County were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of only 329 schools (279 public and 50 private) to recieve the honor this year and one of only eight in the state and two in Western North Carolina. This honor is given to schools that “either achieve very high learning standards or are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap.” Bald Creek was honored for the exemplary high academic performance of its students. We'd like to offer our congratulations to the distinguished educators at Bald Creek, especially our board member, principal Sherry Robinson. 

At the ceremony today, Susie was asked to speak, thanks to her role in making sure that nearly every teacher at Bald Creek is trained in Orton-Gillingham methods. Sherry has said that Orton-Gillingham training has played a big role in her students being able to achieve success. "Today, the entire school takes great pride in being able to say we are an Orton school,” she says. 

Fewer that 9,000 schools nationally have recieved the Blue Ribbon honor since the program was initiated in 1982. “National Blue Ribbon Schools are proof that we can prepare every child for college and meaningful careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a letter to award-winners. “Your schools are on the cutting edge, pioneering innovative educational practices—professional learning communities, project-based learning, social and emotional learning, positive behavior systems—making you shining examples for your communities, your state and the nation.”

North Carolina state Superintendent June Atkinson congratulated educators and students at winning North Carolina schools. “In my travels across the state I see firsthand how hard our principals, teachers and support staff work to ensure that students excel in the classroom and life. It’s rewarding when those efforts are recognized,” she said.

YCS Superintendent Tony Tipton stated, “We are proud to have Bald Creek Elementary represent YCS with state and national recognition of high learning standards and student achievements.  Bald Creek is living up to the Yancey County Schools vision statement of Our Vision–Excellence. “

Congratulations, Sherry and Bald Creek on this well deserved honor! 

Watch a video message from the US Secretary of Education featuring all the award-winners below!

The International Dyslexia Association's Annual Conference: A Report

At the IDA conference: Susie, Robbie Cooper, Diana King, and Harvey Hubbell

At the IDA conference: Susie, Robbie Cooper, Diana King, and Harvey Hubbell

The International Dyslexia Association’s (IDA) Annual Conference was held in Orlando from October 26-29. Susie attended along with Camp Spring Creek tutor Liane Measell and dyslexia education pioneer Diana H. King. This is an event that Susie looks forward to each year because it allows her to not only connect with colleagues, but to learn about the latest research and bring new ideas back to camp. Here are some of the highlights of the conference.

Susie attended Ben Powers’ session on entrepreneurship and dyslexia. Ben is the director of Eagle Hill Southport School, in Southport, Connecticut and Camp Spring Creek’s newest board member! Ben talked about how schools might better support curriculum that connects with dyslexic students’ natural gifts and potential for success in entrepreneurship to increase self-efficacy perceptions. This session affirmed what Susie already believed about our dyslexia population and demonstrated why she encourages campers to pursue their passions to create their own unique career paths. At Camp Spring Creek, we try to develop self-efficacy in meaningful ways and also help campers to learn to push through challenges to develop intrinsic self worth.

While the IDA conference is packed with learning, attendees also have the opportunity to have fun, as you can see from the image below!

 

 

Our One-to-One Initiative's First Tutor: Lissa Jo McMahan

At the end of the last academic year, Lissa Jo McMahan retired after 30 years in Mitchell County public schools, 29 of which she spent at Deyton Elementary School. During that time, she worked across all grade levels. Through the parent of one of her students, she heard about Camp Spring Creek and despite some interruptions, was able to complete both the Certified and Associate-level Orton-Gillingham training with Susie. This past summer was  her sixth summer at camp.

Through all her years as a teacher, Lissa Jo specialized in working with “the strugglers,” she says: those students who were below grade level. These students, she says, are aware that they are behind the other students and that’s hard.  Teachers who aren’t aware of dyslexia or other learning differences often classify these students as difficult or lazy. But because of her training, she knows how to help them.

At camp, she loves being able to work with children one-on-one. Campers are able to achieve results much more quickly than the students she works with at school. Here she says, campers don’t aren’t under the same pressure that they’re under at school. “They’re only competing against themselves,” she says. One of her most satisfying moments was when a student asked her “Can you help my parents find a school that teaches like this near where I live? Because this is how I learn.” It was the first time her tutee had experienced that alignment between the way he learned and the way he was taught.  It ignited in him a new love of learning in him.

Last year, Lissa Jo was able to attend the International Dyslexia Association’s annual meeting in Texas with Susie. Being surrounded by so many other teachers who ‘get it’ was inspiring.

We're thrilled that Lissa Jo has chosen to be the first tutor in our new One-to-One initiative in Mitchell County Schools. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, the One-on-One Initiative is underway and Lissa Jo is already meeting with students. For someone who’s as passionate about teaching as Lissa Jo, helping students to learn has never been ‘work.’ “It’s a joy,” she says. 

 

Diana King's Writing Workshop: A Report From Liane Measell

Last weekend, a dedicated group of educators gathered at Camp Spring Creek to learn about teaching writing from pioneering educator, Diana King. Liane Measell (on far right), one of our trainees and tutors from last summer, gave us a wonderful report on the workshop, which you can read here. 

It is alarming that the National Assessment of Education Process results state that students were below grade level for basic writing competency by 20 percent in 2011 for grade 8. Students not writing at or above proficient goals were at 50 percent in 2011 for grade 8. To hear that 50 percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college level writing is shocking. 

Students must begin simply by making lists which turn into supporting sentences before writing paragraphs. The next step is to have students develop topic sentences from the lists. Finally, students learn to write conclusion sentences. These sentences create the formation of the five-sentence paragraph.

There are ten types of writing; example, process, classification, reason, persuasion, definition, comparison and contrast, description, narration and research. Diana King had all participants of the workshop engage in writing various types of paragraphs to be critiqued. It was an eye-opening experience to write paragraphs as this writer and co-founder of the Kildonan School reviewed each piece of writing. Ms. King has a wealth of knowledge with over sixty years of experience. Her passion for dyslexic students is revealed through her writing and enlightening workshops.

Diana King states, “Students should learn grammatical concepts, then apply them to their writing. This type of grammar instruction should be ongoing, integrated with writing challenges throughout the grades.” She believes that concentration should be on expository writing rather than creative writing. Diana King made it clear that no student can succeed without being able to organize, support and present their ideas in writing.

Thank you, Liane for this report. And thank you to Diana King for sharing her wealth of knowledge with our trainees. 

 

Susie in the Schools

When campers leave for the summer, Susie's engagement with students doesn't end. Helping local teachers in Western North Carolina to help their students is both her personal passion and part of the mission of Camp Spring Creek. In the past few weeks, Susie has been busy doing demonstrations in Mitchell County elementary schools. Working with students in grades K-3, she demonstrated some of the key concepts of the Orton-Gillingham approach. 

Focus on Handwriting

Achieving a proper pencil grip is important in helping kids to write with greater efficiency, leading to greater endurance. When students have a proper pencil grip, they are able to focus on what they want to write, rather than how to write it. That also applies to letter formation. If a child has to think about how to form a letter or use too many strokes to make a letter, that detracts from his or her ability to get thoughts down on paper. Susie worked with students to improve their pencil grips, making written expression easier. 

Phonemic Awareness

To build confidence in beginning readers, Susie encourages them to start with what they know in small bits, then read and "spell sound" to build up to words. While working through words, Susie provides incidental vocabulary as needed. When working with a group of third graders recently, for example, she encouraged them to help her spell the word "marmalade." By "chunking" the word into syllables, most students were able to figure out how to spell it. 

Bringing multisensory techniques to local classrooms give learners in these under-resourced schools access to the techniques used by our tutors at camp. Helping teachers and helping all learners to love reading is one way that Camp Spring Creek gives back to the community!

Guest Blog: Author Aidan Colvin

Do you have a hero?

I did growing up. I mean, I’m not completely grown up now. I’m sixteen. 

But when I was younger, when I was just figuring out what it was like to be dyslexic, I felt pretty alone—until my mom sat me down at her computer and we looked up famous people who were also dyslexic.

Dyslexic Heroes

I almost didn’t believe it. Names like Albert Einstein and JFK and Thomas Edison and Ann Bancroft and Jay Leno… these were the faces that popped up. Really? I was skeptical. I mean if they really had dyslexia, how could they do the kinds of things I knew they had done? But they became my heroes. But they were like pie-in-the-sky far away heroes, way out of my league.

But anyway, I went along on my way and year after year passed, and I figured out my own way of doing things (like writing an “R” on my right hand and an “L” on my left. I still do that when I’m driving. Or just spending a lot more time learning things than my friends do.) And eventually I realized I was not just bad at everything, but kind of good at some things and even really good at some other things. Anyway, I got a little more confident. 

And then high school started. And math and biology and chemistry. (I mean how is a dyslexic supposed to make any sense of all those symbols?) And I admit I was feeling a little sorry for myself. One day my mom pointed me to this poster we had made when I was younger with pictures of the successful dyslexics I was telling you about earlier (and a bunch of others) and she said something like, “I wonder how they did it?” I said something like, “probably smarter.” And she said no. And I said, “yeah, right!” And she said, “Yeah! Write! Write them and ask them!”

How Did They Do It?

And you know what? I did. I didn’t expect anyone to write back so I was shocked when people did. People like writer John Irving and arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, comedian Jay Leno and a royal princess. 

Heroes Are Important

And they told me I was going to be okay. They said I’d just need to work harder. Things might take me longer, but was that so bad? They also said I’d probably figured out that my brain was probably more creative at some things because it was different and that I probably wasn’t as afraid of trying new things (and failing) as others because of all the experience I had with failing. That’s why there are a lot of dyslexic inventors. 

So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that heroes are important. Who are yours Keep them in sight because you might find out that they’re a lot more like you than you thought.

About the Author

Aidan Colvin is an eleventh grader at Wake Early College STEM High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. With some assistance from his mom, he just finished writing the true story “Looking for Heroes: One Boy, One Year, 100 Letters.” (Available in print, as an eBook and in audio on Amazon).

Susie's Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Back-to-school can be a stressful time for student with dyslexia, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember that you are your child’s best advocate. Beyond that, your child is his or her own best advocate. Here are some tips for a successful start to the school year.

  • Do you have a psycho-educational evaluation for your child? If he or she is in public school, the school is required to provide it. If there’s too long a waiting period to see the school or district psychologist, you can provide an outside evaluation at your own expense. Contact me for recommendations. You should expect a 15-20 page-report specific to your child, and the psychologist should sit down and go over the report with you. I recommend that you take a friend with you to take notes as this can be at times an emotional meeting. It is best to share highlighted portions of the report with your child’s teacher. The teacher may be overwhelmed to read the report in its entirety, and if you highlight the key points that would help.

 

  • Put in the time in the beginning of the school year to introduce yourself to the teachers, specialists and psychologists who will be working with your child. Find out the best way to stay in touch with the teacher about your child: phone, email, in person?

 

  • Be assertive about your child’s needs, but also respectful of the teacher’s time and ask how you can be of assistance.

 

  • Advocate for multisensory education in your child’s classroom, additional time to complete tasks, and limited-timed tasks and projects broken down into chunks. Provide your child’s teacher with resources if he or she doesn’t know about multisensory education.

 

  • Remind your child to advocate for him/herself. By speaking up and getting needed help, other students in the class can benefit, too.

 

  • If you’re homeschooling, reach out to other homeschooling parents of kids with dyslexia to build a community of support.

 

  • Encourage your child to keep engaged in one activity that bolsters his or her confidence throughout the year. Do not overwhelm your child with too many activities but allow him/her to develop natural talents and interests

 

  • Continue to read aloud with your child every day! Alternate which of you reads aloud. If your child stumbles on a word, just provide the word with out ridicule or embarrassment.

 

  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions or for advice during the school year. 

Camper Poetry, Summer 2016

On the final night of camp, a talent and skit show is a Camp Spring Creek tradition. This year, camper Corey K. shared a poem that she wrote. Corey beautifully captured life a camp and she agreed that we could share her work here. 

 

Camp Spring Creek Summer

A soft laughter runs through the camp

Take some wood, nails and clamps

A bucket of paint will do just fine

Camp is for fun during summertime

Up some stones and in the pool

A bunch of friends, we’re nice and cool

In typing, your fingers just go, go, go

But looking at the keys gets a no, no, no

Woodshop is my favourite though

Hit a nail with one big blow

Books, pillowcases, painting and more

In Art, all are welcome, it’s above the door

Rollerskating is so much fun

But be careful, don’t fall on your bum

Tubing was relaxing and lazy

But rafting was a bit more crazy

The rain ruined our Olympic dreams

Some countries had a lot of steam

The storms came quick with lightning and rain

Our activities stopped, it was such a pain.

Room inspection, gets us cleaning fast

A perfect score, what a blast

Reading, spelling and lots of CLOVER

Until the day is officially over

A day for the girls at Wilson’s Creek

We will all be home in less than a week

Friends and fun, camp gets a cheer

Its time to go home, so Steve can have a beer

We say goodbye, but never fear

We will see you all again next year.