Bridget Burnette had no idea what she was getting into when her supervisor at McDowell Technical Community College told her he had signed her up for Orton Gillingham Associate Level training with Susie van der Vorst. As she began looking through the training materials that had been forwarded her way, the English Language Learner teacher, who had recently been asked to take on GED classes as well, felt clearer. “When I took a look at the notebook we’d be working from, I was overwhelmed,” Bridget says. “Once we got started, though, I realized every teacher and every student should have this understanding of language.”
A new light flipped on for Bridget as she learned syllable division, spelling patterns and the breakdown of letter sounds. “Growing up,” she says, I could spell because I was good at memorization, not because I understood how words were spelled.
Part of what she has learned, too, is how to recognize learning differences, which she believes will allow her to meet individual student needs better. “Some of my students left school when they were young and started working. I have some students who read at only a fourth grade level. I believe having an understanding of things such as why words are spelled the way they are will be particularly helpful to my students as they learn new words and continue their education.”
An unexpected gift was the development of new empathy for her dyslexic brother as she watched her dyslexic training partner struggle through some of the lessons. “I watched him struggle growing up. At school, he was put in a slower learning group. So many people mistreated him because they thought he was dumb.”
Bridget knows nothing could be further from the truth. “He’s very intelligent, artistic and loves to see how things work. I told him what I’m doing and he was interested in learning more, which is exciting to me.”
Since finishing the class, Bridget feels better equipped to teach. “I’m currently teaching phonics to my ESL students who are new to the English language. I want them to learn the correct way and help them understand the why’s behind our language. I also plan to use Orton-Gillingham with my other classes, whether dyslexia is the issue or not. I believe this multisensory approach is a great way to learn.”
She also believes it’s a good tool for her own future studies. “I want to take the GRE to go to grad school and I’m certain this training will help me have a better understanding when it comes to the vocabulary words I’ll encounter. I’m excited about the possibilities.”