The Early Years

June 22, 2014

From the beginnings of the School, David and Dee were determined to have a school specifically designed for dyslexic children. It was to be a team effort for the two of them: David was the up-front educator; Dee was the manager of most everything else. They had both been trained in the Orton-Gillingham method which at that time was used only in one-on-one tutoring situations. In order to reach more children than by just tutoring, the plan was to have small classes taught by O-G trained teachers. By screening prospective students carefully, they selected those they felt would benefit from being in small class groups. However, one-on-one teaching was to be available for those students who needed a more specialized teaching environment during part of the day. No child was to fall through the cracks. Another innovative idea was to have the students enrolled for only a few years. The thinking was to focus on remedial programming and then to guide the families in selecting a traditional educational setting for life after Schenck.

Along with the growth of the student body, there was constant concern about how to train the needed faculty. David had a keen eye for determining which teacher applicants would fit into the philosophy of the School. Those who were excited about learning O-G and relished using a curriculum that they developed themselves were high on his list. He was not impressed by those pieces of paper that certified teachers as being reading specialists. He found many of them inflexible in learning another way to work with dyslexic kids. Very, very few college programs taught O-G, so an in-depth training program was set up for the new incoming teachers each year.

When David wasn’t teaching in one of the classrooms, one of his favorite places in the School was to be in front of a teacher training class. Being dyslexic himself, he could truly understand the learning difficulties of dyslexic students and his passion was to get this insight clearly into the psyche of the faculty. He particularly enjoyed teaching arithmetic and loved watching the light come on in the eyes of the students in front of him. One of David’s favorite sayings was that all you needed to help a dyslexic child was a pencil and a piece of paper. This reflected his great dislike of workbooks typically filled with useless activities for a dyslexic student. You could see his belief in the use of multi-sensory teaching when observing his own tutoring and teaching sessions with children and adults.

Overall, I believe that David’s favorite activity at school was walking through the buildings and seeing happy students and teachers. He then truly knew his and Dee’s dream had been achieved.

Marge Tillman was a Schenck School teacher for 15 years and then worked closely with Dee and David Schenck as a School Administrator for 15 more years.

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