1973: Joanie Gerken

The year 1973 seems so long ago by numbers but the memories of teaching at Trident Academy are very vivid and fresh in my mind. It was my first job after graduating from college. I was excited to be in a classroom of my own with students to nurture and help learn to read. It didn’t matter that my classroom was a modular unit( ½ of a trailer); it didn’t matter that you had to drive down a dirt road through the cemetery to get to the school. I had 9 smiling faces, 8 boys and 1 girl, waiting anxiously to greet me each day. I had a drive through the grove of pecan trees lining the dirt driveway on either side. I felt like I was embarking on a new adventure down a little country road.

The school was small in number although we had a primary class, that received Montessori instruction, an elementary section and a high school. Weezie Fallon occupied the other half of my trailer unit; she taught hands-on science using the DELTA science kits. The whole program was exciting to watch. I learned a lot about multisensory teaching and how it helped students to learn science concepts. Weezie acted as my mentor, helping me navigate through creating lesson plans and handling parent conferences.

Because the student body was small and growing in number each year, the faculty was small in number and became a very close knit group. We had regular meetings after school in which the entire faculty could fit into the one trailer that served as our lunch room. Everyone pitched in and did a variety of jobs. Every student had a 1:1 reading/ spelling tutorial throughout the day. Every teacher taught the 1:1 reading/spelling tutorial at some point in the day in addition to their regular class load. We were a community of workers and students helping each other. It was all very cozy and warm which is probably why my memories are so crisp.

After my first year, Col. Kimbrell took over the role of Head of the School. He was instrumental in having Dr. Lucia Rooney Karnes come from Bowman Gray Medical Center and train the faculty in the Orton-Gillingham Approach. This was a perfect complement to the Montessori model already being used in the primary class and the hands on teaching in our science program. Prior to Dr. Karnes teaching us about this approach, we used the SHEDD Program for reading and spelling. With this training the students started making wonderful progress in reading and spelling. The program grew and we were soon looking for a larger campus.

I learned so much from Dr. Karnes and have continued to follow her lead in training teachers in the Orton-Gillingham approach. Trident Academy is where I developed my passion for teaching students who learn through all of their senses.

Joanie Gerken, Faculty/Staff photo, Trident Academy yearbook

Joanie Gerken, Faculty/Staff photo,
Trident Academy yearbook

Orton Gillingham, OG, trident tribute 45 anniversary

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