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Step Ahead, Together

Barbara and Ed at a podium

This summer’s annual meeting of Wilson® Credentialed Trainers provided an opportunity for educators from 25 states to meaningfully connect with peers, members of the Wilson Fidelity Team, and co-founders Barbara and Ed Wilson. More than 150 Trainers, Literacy Specialists, and Literacy Advisors who instruct and mentor fellow teachers in the Wilson Reading System®  (WRS) in public school districts, private schools, independent reading centers, and other educational settings gathered July 8-9 in Portsmouth, NH, to reflect on the past year of instruction and prepare for the upcoming school year.

Centered on the theme, “Step Ahead, Together,” the meeting offered an opportunity to share “aha moments” and key insights gained during the initial year using the enhanced fourth edition of the Wilson Reading System, Steps 1-6, and provided an overview and practice with the soon-to-be-published WRS Steps 7-12. The variety of sessions allowed for a vigorous exchange of information and ideas on a range of topics and instructional techniques for these experts to bring back to their individual learning communities.

Opening the conference, Barbara linked Wilson’s mission and instructional methodology to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity’s Declaration of Rights for students with dyslexia—tying in Wilson practices, principles, and resources with the statement’s five points: accurate diagnoses, use of the word “dyslexia,” evidence-based instruction, accommodations, and a dyslexia-friendly environment in which to learn.

She also led attendees in an in-depth look at the WRS Comprehension and Fluency Block 3 Guide. Focusing on the three types of text (controlled/decodable; enriched/grade-level: narrative/informational, and non-controlled/readable: informational) and four instructional tasks for working with students (listening comprehension; reading comprehension: scaffolded silent reading, interactive oral reading; oral reading fluency).

Additionally, Wilson Trainers rolled up their sleeves with members of the Wilson Fidelity Team to review WRS lesson procedures and word study instruction, including the role word elements play in written English language; examine best practices for End-of-Step Assessment (EOSA); and revisit the interrelationship between comprehensive evaluations, informal assessments, and WRS End-of Step Assessments to determine the appropriate approach to Wilson fluency instruction.

Guest speaker Henry Sinclair Sherrill, founder of Boon Philanthropy, shared the work of his nonprofit organization and the scholarships it provides to teachers interested in pursuing certification in multisensory structured literacy instruction, including WRS.

“Your knowledge, skills, and commitment are the key to student reading success and changing the negative statistics on reading failure,” Mr. Sherrill said. “Without more trained teachers, we cannot begin to reduce the reading crisis, we cannot remediate our dyslexic students, and we cannot help all learners be proficient readers. Your special work can help reduce losses to our gross national product, increase employment, bring substance to high school diplomas, and reduce the number of citizens behind bars.”

Trainers had the opportunity to visit with leaders from three nonprofit organizations dedicated to assisting students and expanding knowledge about dyslexia: Will Baker, founder and president of The Dyslexia Foundation; Academy Award-winning producer and director Peggy Stern, founder and CEO of SuperD!ville; and Christian Henry, chief program officer for NoticeAbility. One evening included a riveting performance, “In Search of Air: Growing Up Dyslexic,” by educator, dancer, and spoken word artist Lida Winfield.

The performance and the initiatives of the nonprofit organizations “remind us all of the impact of our work and the power of what we have to offer,” Barbara shared.

An annual highlight of the meeting is the “pinning” of new Wilson Trainers, marking the completion of their intensive, yearlong internship. This year, 14 educators from Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah were recognized. Eleven of the new Trainers will instruct, coach, and mentor colleagues within their own school districts, one will provide structured literacy instruction through a Wilson® Accredited Partner, and two will serve schools and districts as Wilson Literacy Specialists.

“Every time I’m fortunate to be surrounded by other Wilson Trainers, it deepens and renews my passion for the work we do,” shared newly credentialed Trainer Katie Bryan of Round Rock, TX. “I feel very fortunate to be able to do this important work with some of the smartest and most enthusiastic educators I have ever met!”

As the educational landscape of dyslexia continues to change, this year’s meeting confirmed that Wilson practitioners remain steady, with a collective mission and vision of achieving “Literacy for All.”