Teaching at Trident Academy was so important to Peggy Price that her husband selected his post-doctoral fellowship in Charleston in order for her to further her career. In the summer of 2011, Peggy moved from Atlanta to become a LEAD teacher at Trident Academy. Her husband started his post-doctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at MUSC’s National Crimes Victim Center.
Peggy recently earned her Associate Level membership in the Academy of Orton-Gillingham of Practitioners and Educators, and currently, is in a two-year program to earn her Certified Level membership. In her own words, Peggy explains why she so highly values the opportunity to teach the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach to Trident Academy’s students.
So, you’ve changed your family’s life to teach at Trident Academy – why?
It was incredibly important for me to be at a school where I could pursue my Orton-Gillingham training. Trident Academy is only one of eleven schools accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and provides daily O-G tutoring. As soon as my husband was made an offer by MUSC, I contacted Trident Academy about a job.
While teaching in Atlanta, I was mentored by two wonderful Orton-Gillingham Fellows, Claire Pearson and Norma Jean McHugh. They were incredibly encouraging for a career path in O-G, and spoke highly not only of Trident Academy, but of their colleague, Sheila Costello, director of LEAD and OutReach services. You can tell just by walking through Trident Academy that the school deeply cares about its students and their academic and emotional success. It provides a small nurturing environment, and is simultaneously committed to excellence in education and keeping abreast of the latest research in the field of learning disabilities. I was especially impressed with Trident’s use of assistive technology, daily O-G tutorials, and small student-teacher ratio. I wanted to be surrounded by other teachers and supervisors who are highly trained in O-G, so that I could continue to grow professionally.
Trident Academy is committed to professional development, and I am currently pursuing the next level of Orton Academy certification under Sheila Costello’s supervision. Once a week, I have a class with other LEAD teachers where we discuss seminal O-G, linguistics, neuroscience, and dyslexia related works along with the latest related research. How many schools can boast of such rigorous professional development? I am privileged to work with experienced teachers who are dedicated to the field of learning disabilities. I could not be happier with my job at Trident Academy. I look forward to seeing my students and coworkers everyday and learning from them both.
How did you know that you wanted to focus on the O-G approach?
I first began working with students with disabilities my freshman year of college, and ten years later; I cannot imagine doing anything else.
To explain why I chose to focus on the Orton-Gillingham approach, I should probably first explain my educational background. In college, as an addition to a BA in psychology, I did a concentration in applied behavior analysis (ABA). I taught and conducted single subject design research in a school on campus for students with autism and developmental disabilities. ABA is diagnostic, individualized, data driven, and research based; in a word—like Orton-Gillingham. At this point, my plan was to work primarily with students with autism. While in graduate school for a Master’s degree in early childhood special-education, I took a class on reading instruction that first introduced me to the O-G approach. I’ve always been fascinated with how words work, so O-G combined my love of language in an “ABA-esque” format. It was by far the best class I took in graduate school and gave me practical tools to critically examine reading programs and implement them in a classroom.
When I started my first full time teaching position as a Kindergarten inclusion teacher, I immediately began writing decodable texts and phonemic awareness scripts and games. My Kindergarten students were a mix of typically developing students and those with a range of various disabilities from autism, ADHD, to cerebral palsy. The underlying issue I saw with most of my students was the effect of a language based disability on their ability to read and write. Reading is the gateway to almost all learning in school. I knew I needed to learn more to help my struggling students learn to read. My second year teaching, I attended a 30-hour course based on the O-G approach, which convinced me I wanted to pursue a more in-depth certification through the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. I began redelivering several talks and workshops on how I was implementing O-G in my Kindergarten class, and it caught on like wild fire. Teachers from another nearby public elementary school and several parents asked if they could attend my talks, and I became swamped with tutoring requests. My fellow teachers, paraprofessionals, school administration, parents, and most importantly, the students, all witnessed the remarkable gains with O-G instruction.
What do you love about the students at Trident? What brings a smile to your face each day?
The students at Trident are hardworking, motivated, and determined. I am consistently impressed with how they walk into my LEAD room every day ready to give their best in an area that is challenging for them. Even in my short time at Trident since August, I have seen students transform from making self defeating statements, such as “I won’t be able to do this; I’m not good at this,” to asking me for harder words to spell and saying, “This is so easy for me now.”
I love my students’ inquisitiveness and self-realizations about how language connects. For example, before I was able to introduce homophones to a student today he said, “Wait a minute- mail is what you get at the post office but male can also be a male dog.” It is a joy to watch my students take pride in their success, and equally, to know that Trident is safe place to tell the teacher you do not understand something or need more help.
I truly believe every child can be successful if their environment allows it. I love that Trident Academy provides me the time, space and resources to individually tailor my instruction for the needs of each child.