I came from a school that didn't really care. … when I came to [my new school] for grade 6, I didn't know much. [My new school] has changed my life so much! I didn't care and I would give up but [the principal and my teacher] wouldn't let me give up on myself. They would make me sit down and do work even though it was hard. Now I'm awesome in all subjects. Some of my strategies are: if words are too hard think of what they mean. Just believe you can do it. Never give up on yourself.
Phonological Awareness - When I come across a word that I don't know I break it down into phonemes (sounds). This helps me to spell the word.
I use this in grade 7 for Cree words that are sometimes over 25 letters long.
Visualizing - I use visualization to spell words. I use it all the time in all subjects. I also know how to spell million dollar words. My L.A. teacher says how good my stories are and my words.
My brain is a cardbox for all my strategies. This is a result of making my cardbox for strategies last year. The card box only cost $1.05, but my ideas cost more.
Some people are calling me teacher's pet.
Shy-Lynn, Grade Seven Student
My ability to express myself and grow is at the core of who I am, yet it remained a struggle for a good portion of my young life. It was, after all, only a few years back when I still feared reading and writing as if English was an alien language forced upon me. It's hard to think back to then, now, but nonetheless, the memory contains an important story of transformation that has given me hope in every one of my pursuits.
During my primary and secondary education, to be asked to write anything was a difficult and obtuse task, which left me consistently butchering my creativity and passion, to conform to formulas I did not understand, in the name of grammar and spelling. I was told I needed to improve yet, no matter how many exercises I did, the red pen still ripped over every paper, report, and project.
Reading was little different. I watched my parents use reading as a source of entertainment, an outlet of their curiosity, a way to expand their horizons yet, for me, it never was. Each word was a foreign phonograph and a dreaded chore to decipher. In some ways, this was good; it kept me sharp, aware, and good at finding meaning, yet it also bled away my energy, made the joy of it a distant ideal, and clothed me in a form of self-aggravated shame.
Sylvia Hannah was not the first person to try and help me turn the table in the inner war, but her impact was larger than any others and expanded beyond reading and writing. It helped heal emotional wounds that were with me for a very long time; it helped me regain confidence in myself, and even showed me a process of problem solving which can be applied to any area of struggle I face.
It was grade eleven when I began working with Sylvia, and it's still amazing to me how quickly everyone noticed serious changes and improvements. It wasn't always overnight transformations that took place with Sylvia. I am not even sure when the teaching ended and I was on par with those I considered my academic peers. Nonetheless, what it did was substantial; a complete change of direction, with a gap that has in the meantime more than closed. Where there once was a twisted connection, there now was a reliable pattern. Where there once was fear, there then appeared a sense of opportunity and curiosity, which inevitably led, for perhaps the first time in my whole life, a realistic vision of academic success that I had long secretly desired. And, it is in that spirit I am where I am today.
So, perhaps it doesn't seem like much to you, this phonological awareness training, but to me, learning it was life changing. By going through it I am now attending university, making what was once an almost impossible dread, a solid reality. I truly believe no matter how large or small your struggle, if you need great literacy teaching that can make a difference, that can shift the tide, Sylvia Hannah is the woman to go to.
Conrad, University Student
In 2003, our son was in grade 4 and still had difficulty reading and writing at the proper grade level. He was very unhappy at school and at home and we did not know how to help him. After several conversations with the school staff and administration, the school agreed to bring in a consultant to assess the situation. Sylvia Hannah was the consultant for that school and unbeknownst to us we had found the solution to our problem. She would change our lives forever.
Sylvia completed the assessment and it was determined that our son had difficulty encoding and decoding words, which put him 2 grade levels below where he should have been.
After discussing the results of the assessment with the school principal and Sylvia, the school did not have the staff expertise to help our son nor were they willing to try to help him.
As we sat in that meeting, our hearts just sank. We did not know what to do at that point. We had to look for a different school that could provide our son the help he needed.
When Sylvia saw the looks on our faces and the tears in our eyes, she decided to assist us personally.
The assessment was done very late in the school year and we had to make a quick decision about changing schools and seeking some assistance.
Sylvia quickly developed a connection to our son and to us and offered to help him over the summer. She came to our home on a weekly basis as she wanted our son to be in comfortable surroundings.
Sylvia continued to come to our house on a weekly basis for the next year. Her expertise in linguistics and reading, her knowledge of the English language, her patience and kind and quiet approach helped our son complete any reading and writing task given to him.
Sylvia's development of the different reading tools and teaching methods to help children learn to read is remarkable. Her skill as an educator combined with her human kindness has produced a system that should be used by every school system to teach reading and writing.
We did transfer our son to a new school where he received the support and encouragement he needed. He completed the Grade 6 Achievement Exams with outstanding results and completed grade 7 with honors.
Linda and Gary, parents of grade 7 student
When Gregor was three and a half, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with hyperlexic tendencies. Being hyperlexic, Gregor has an aptitude for numbers and letters and taught himself to read when he was around three. However, I was often questioned by professionals about how much Gregor really comprehended what he was reading. Therefore, when he was four I requested Gregor's school have his reading assessed. It was an unusual request, being that Gregor was so young and in an Early Education program; moreover, there were no standardized tests to give him.
This was the challenge proposed to Sylvia, who readily accepted it and developed an accurate, age-appropriate assessment for Gregor. The results of the assessment provided new insight into Gregor's capabilities, resulting in a new direction for his school program planning. We now had a true understanding of Gregor's strengths and weaknesses, enabling his team to formulate and prioritize objectives appropriately. More than that, the assessment results gave my husband and I a flourish of pride and hopefulness for Gregor's future. As parents of a child with ASD, that information was priceless.
Sylvia has since spent many hours consulting with Gregor's teachers and myself, offering great insight into ways to help Gregor. She is passionate about her field and exudes a warmth and sincerity that endears you to her. She is a true professional, but is able to challenge convention in order to reach the children she's working with. I have the utmost respect for Sylvia's work and acknowledge her as a true expert in her field.
Cheryl, mother of Gregor, hyperlexic learner