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Monticello Teachers Receive Award For Dyslexia Program

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Dyslexia AwardMONTICELLO (Journal-Republican) — Monticello’s Lincoln and White Heath Elementary schools have received an award for their dyslexia screening and intervention program that was put into effect in 2012. Intervention teacher Jenna Branch and special education instructor Mary Rhodes received training on how to identify those with dyslexia, and since 2012 have screened about 110 incoming elementary students per year.

The efforts have been recognized by Everyone Reading Illinois, which awarded the schools with the 2015 “It Takes a Village” award.

“The award is nice, but I think mainly I see that we’re helping kids, and bottom line that is what is most important to me,” said Rhodes, who along with Branch will be a presenter at the ERI fall conference, “Dynamics of Dyslexia” on Oct. 7 in Naperville.

“I’m excited because we get to spread the word that this is what we’re doing and that it can be done,” said Branch about speaking at the conference. “We’re a small district, have done this all on our own, and we didn’t throw a whole bunch of money at it.”

What they have thrown at it is time, both in training and in delivering screenings. Branch is sure it has made a difference. Dyslexia currently has no cure, but when identified early students can be helped through more one-on-one, small group and multi-sensory learning.

“It is a different kind of intervention, and now we know what to provide, so it’s made an impact for sure,” commented Branch. “If we didn’t know what we know now, and kept doing what we were doing, there were several students who probably would have ended up in special ed. Now they’re not.”

An estimated one in five children has dyslexia to varying degrees.

“If we can spread the word and help others, it will help more kids,” added Rhodes.

They have also worked with area legislators to enact legislation addressing the issue. The initial draft that would have required screening of all kindergarten students in Illinois for dyslexia did not make it into the final law, but House Bill 3700 does require the Illinois State Board of Education to adopt rules that incorporate a definition of dyslexia into the special education codes. It was signed into law on July 14 of 2014.

As winners of the ERI It Takes a Village award, the Monticello school district will receive five reservations for the fall conference, a $25 gift certificate, and a one-year complementary institutional membership in Everyone Reading Illinois valued at $250.

“Congratulations to you, your school, and district for the enormous efforts and successes you have initiated to benefit those students who struggle to read. Your team is an inspiriation for all of what happens when leadership, research, best practices and dedication come together,” said Suzanne O’Brien of the ERI It Takes a Village Committee.

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