For someone who “stumbled into teaching by accident,” Nelda Reyes certainly landed on her feet, then kept on going.
Now entering her twenty-third year as a teacher, Nelda recently added Wilson® Dyslexia Therapist (W.D.T.) to her professional credentials. A dyslexia interventionist in San Marcos, TX, Nelda became Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Level II Certified earlier this year, just as her practicum student, Jonathan, wrapped up Step 12 of the intensive reading intervention program.
As an undergraduate studying speech communication disorders, Nelda said she became intrigued by the science of how language develops in children, and how critical aspects of language are intertwined with reading and writing. “During my speech practicum, I enjoyed working with small children and felt compelled to do as much as I possibly could to help them with their speech and learning disabilities.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Texas Pan American, she went on to earn certificates in early childhood, bilingual/ESL and special education from the university, as well as her Master Reading Teacher Certificate from the Texas Region 13 Education Service Center in Austin, Texas. As she continued to build up her academic and career credentials, she became acutely aware of the struggles of many students who could not read. She became determined to build her own knowledge of effective reading instruction in order to help meet her students’ needs.
A grant from the San Marcos Civic Foundation given to the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District enabled Nelda to earn WRS Level I Certification in 2009 through Region 13 ESC, a Wilson® Accredited Partner.
“Little did I know that this program would be the answer to so many of my questions,” she shared. “This program opened my eyes to how to effectively teach reading. For the first time in my teaching career, I began making connections and started realizing how all the components fit together to properly teach a struggling reader. I’ve seen first-hand how WRS has made such a difference with my students who have dyslexia. It has become my mission to educate parents and other teachers about dyslexia and how the Wilson program can help struggling readers.”
Pursuing WRS Level II Certification was the next significant step, Nelda said. In 2016, she received Wilson’s Sharon Parks Award, a scholarship for Level II Certification. At this level, educators develop advanced strategies for instruction in group settings, as well as proficiency teaching WRS Steps 7-12 to students ready for advanced word study instruction. Each track of the certification process includes a supervised practicum.
“Everything that I have learned has been put into practice,” she said. “My training has allowed me to spread the wealth to colleagues, community, friends, and family members. Because of my background in speech pathology and knowing that dyslexia is a language-based disorder, I can truly see how the science of reading is applicable to this multisensory instruction.”
Known in her community as an advocate for students with dyslexia, Nelda serves on the board of directors for the Austin branch of the International Dyslexia Association. She said she’s thankful for the opportunities her school district and Wilson mentors have provided to her and her students at De Zavala Elementary School.
“I am truly grateful for our Texas Region 13 Education Center and the partnership that they have with Wilson, which has provided many of our special education and dyslexia teachers the opportunity to become certified and reach so many students in our area. I had the privilege of being trained under (recently retired Wilson® Credentialed Trainers) Judy Butler and Susan Patteson, who were both inspirational and true mentors for me.”
As for Jonathan, who was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade, entering sixth grade this year as a WRS alumnus puts him on equal footing with his peers who do not have dyslexia.
“My school is a Title I school,” Nelda explained. “This type of opportunity for Jonathan would never have been attainable for him. Private tutoring was not an option for the family. He would have struggled to make it through his school career.”
Jonathan and his parents sacrificed two long summers and countless after-school sessions to ensure he received the intensive intervention he needed to become a fluent, independent reader, Nelda added.
“When his mom mentioned to me in tears that she thought she was going to send her son to middle school as a non-reader, it really tugged on my heartstrings. I realized what a precious gift I had given Jonathan. The gift that he got from this opportunity not only helped his reading, but it boosted his self-esteem. He passed his state assessments and he walks the halls proudly.”