In 2015, New Jersey teacher Renee Klein and 11 colleagues accepted their school district’s offer to become certified in the Wilson Reading System®.
A special education teacher for two decades, Renee has seen the toll that reading disabilities take not only on students’ education, but on their confidence and demeanor as well. She jumped at the professional learning opportunity.
Meanwhile, Saniah, a middle school student classified with a specific learning disability, had been recommended to participate in WRS instruction. Together, Renee and Saniah helped each other achieve their goals. Renee gained expertise in Wilson’s multisensory structured language program to become Level I certified in 2016 and obtain her Wilson® Dyslexia Practitioner (W.D.P.) credential, and Saniah became a fluent, independent reader.
“She worked hard and she was so focused,” Renee said of her practicum student. At the completion of each Step, the two celebrated with a fun reward, such as lunch and word games.
“This reading program worked so well because of the relationship between me and Saniah, and I continue to see that with other students I am currently working with,” Renee said. “When the teacher is there to support the student through this program, it creates such a bond. There’s the unspoken words of, ‘I see you’re applying what you’ve learned,’ and the ‘Look what I can do now,’ between us when he or she reads something aloud and smiles afterward.”
“Wilson allows the student to feel safe and successful at the same time,” Renee said. “It allows them to learn without fear of failure, it provides structure to avoid fear of the unexpected, and allows them to apply what they learn across the board in their other classes. I’m just a big fan of the program. I’ve seen it do such wonderful things for these kids. There is no grading or testing that you can fail, and I think that’s a really big part of it for students – the structure of knowing, ‘If you don’t get this today, you’ll get it tomorrow.’ “
Saniah’s mother, Saquette, first detected her daughter’s reading difficulty in elementary school. Following a move to north central New Jersey in the third grade, the young girl gained additional support services through a 504 plan and IEP. By the end of fifth grade, she was recommended for WRS instruction and began the intensive studies in grade six.
“Wilson has been a breath of fresh air. It has really changed Saniah’s education,” Saquette said. “When she first started Wilson, it gave her a boost of confidence. That’s the change I initially saw. Before, she used to be really hard on herself. Now, she participates in class, and she’s raising her hand more. As her reading skills developed, she wanted to read more and more, and that made me want to get her more books that she could relate to. She loves science, and that involves a lot of reading.”
As for Saniah, she is looking forward to celebrating her achievements during her 8th grade graduation in June and then continuing her education this fall in high school. An athlete who enjoys basketball, volleyball, tennis, and cheerleading, she’s also excited to be a camp counselor in training this summer.
“She has grown leaps and bounds,” added Renee, who also has Saniah for social studies and study skills classes this year. “Along with improvement in her skills, she has become more confident in herself. She has strategies now.”