Ad Astra Per Aspera, Latin for “to the stars through adversity,” is how Adam Maidman describes his journey to the world of possibilities and opportunities that opened when he learned how to read.
Diagnosed with severe dyslexia in elementary school while growing up in Connecticut, Adam’s trajectory from struggling reader to graduate student, first-year teacher, and self-proclaimed “history nerd” is embodied by a single sheet of paper. Framed and displayed above his desk, the Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Certificate of Completion he earned in seventh grade signifies a pivotal point in his life.
“I would not be where I am without Wilson and the tireless efforts of my teacher, Sharon Wolf,” Adam said of his instructor, a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.) and certified Wilson® Dyslexia Therapist (W.D.T.). “Sharon took a struggling little boy who could not read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish in fourth grade and gave me hope. In addition to teaching me to read, she opened my eyes to a whole world that I never knew was out there, through books,” he said.
“She was determined to see me succeed despite my falling asleep in her office after long school days, tears, and the whims of a little boy. We both were determined. Spending time with her and watching the impact she has on her students made me want to become a teacher.”
Adam’s career choice was also influenced by other memorable educators. “My teachers all throughout were key. They always supported me and supported my parents.”
He credits an astute second-grade teacher for recognizing the severity of his reading disability and the need for intervention. Following two years of reading intervention, the difficulties persisted. When it was determined he would need intensive, explicit, multisensory structured literacy instruction to overcome his dyslexia—a trait he shares with his father and one of his three siblings—he began WRS instruction.
He was also inspired by a revered high school history teacher, who lined her walls with the covers of TIME magazine to show students they were living through history in the making, as well as to impress upon them the link between current events and the past. These are messages the Chicago resident now shares with his own students using the front pages of newspapers.
“Since Wilson, I have only continued to develop a passion and craving for learning, as I am constantly reading,” shared Adam, who went on to study Latin for five years. “My excitement for knowledge and reading has no boundaries. When I went to college, I decided to be a history major, which is probably an unusual major for a person with dyslexia, as it’s all reading and writing.”
At the University of Chicago, Adam became active with campus organizations such as The Chicago Journal of History and volunteered for two years with the Chicago nonprofit Debate it Forward. Since earning his bachelor’s degree in June, he is now teaching history to 150 sophomores at a charter school in Gary, IN, through the national nonprofit Teach for America—all while pursuing a master’s degree. He plans to continue toward a doctoral degree in history or law and eventually pursue WRS Level I Certification to further assist students.
“If I could teach students history and help them learn to read, that would be a dream,” he said. “One of the greatest gifts I ever received was dyslexia. It’s a pain, it takes me longer to do things. But it has given me such a strong work ethic. It changed the way I look at things and taught me to overcome obstacles. I tell my students, ‘As long as you’re willing to work hard, you’re motivated, and inspired, you’ll fulfill your dreams.’ ”
(This article originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of The Decoder).