My Dyslexia Specialist Journey, So Far
Hi! I'm Stephanie Horn and I'm a Certified Academic Language Therapist. My journey to become a dyslexia specialist was not a traditional path. In fact, my start to teaching was not a traditional path.
I went to Clemson University for my undergraduate degree and studied Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. I spent lots of time in the woods, rivers, and lakes during class time. I learned how to identify fish (it's really hard when the specimens have no color, by the way), trees, flowers, and lots of other plants.
After graduation, I moved up to New Hampshire in Bear Brook state park. There, I participated in a Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps internship. I lived in cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps with no electricity, except in our office and main building. I learned how to start and keep a fire going in a wood stove. I even refurbished an old wood stove to keep our cabin warmer at night. During this time, I taught environmental education classes to eight 8th grade glasses once a week for 4 months. Then, we switched our focus and did trail work and maintenance throughout the entire state of New Hampshire for 6 months. Each month, I would be in a different state park, working on projects given to us. It was a blast! Living in a tent for months at a time, swimming in all the different rivers and lakes we found. I quickly learned different tricks to warm up my sleeping bag before going to sleep.
When my year was up in New Hampshire, I moved to Oklahoma with my parents and started my first masters program in Mild/Moderate Special. At the same time, I got a job as a paraprofessional in self-contained Autistic middle school classroom. That was an interesting year, as the teacher quit the day before classes started, so I had other teachers rotating through, but it was mainly me with the kids all day. I learned a lot from those kids, though some of it I didn't realize at the time. I stayed there for a year, and used that experience as well as my bachelors degree to get an alternative teaching license. I wanted to stay in that classroom, but that was not meant to be.
The next year, I moved to a Title 1 high school as the special education science and English teacher, plus some math at the end. I spent three years there working with the angry high school boys no one else really wanted to deal with. Those were my babies! They taught me about shoes, basketball, and slang words. I taught them science in a way that they knew why it was important. I helped explain math to them in ways that made sense. But I wish I knew then, what I know now. There is so much more I could have done to help them be successful long term.
After three years, I moved to teach in a juvenile jail as their special education director and science teacher. That was definitely an experience. There was so much that was just like a normal classroom, but they had lots of restrictions. I enjoyed being the safe place for them to ask questions about science and know they wouldn't get in trouble and they'd get a correct answer. In case you're wondering, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding reproduction that could be fixed with a good program that teaches the facts.
I only stayed at the juvenile jail for a year, before moving to a blended model school. I taught bother online and in person. This made the switch to completely virtual when Covid started very easy. One very nice thing about this school, was that I got to stay with families as they progressed through the grades. I would start with students, and then get to work with them until they graduated. It was such an amazing experience. However, I did end up with one family that was not happy with what could be provided. The eventual outcome of the complaints, was that the school paid for me to train to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist through Payne Education Center. This was one of the best things to happen for me and my students.
The training on the Take Flight curriculum was not easy. I didn't know my letter sounds well and I didn't have a background teaching reading at all. Thankfully, I met some wonderful ladies who helped me through everything. Our final demonstration and certification tests got pushed back due to Covid, but we eventually all became certified. Our 2 years of hard work paid off!
The winter after I completed all my training, my husband got orders to move to Virginia. So we packed everything up, and drove across the country with 2 toddlers and 2 dogs. Thankfully, the school I was teaching for allowed me to finish the school year virtually. Unfortunately, once in Virginia I couldn't find any schools that would even interview me to be a reading specialist. So, I started down a new path a created Literacy in Flight to help students who need extra support for their reading skills.
I may not have made it to where I am through the traditional avenues, but all of my students and families love the stories and information I can share to help keep things interesting. I can't wait to see where this journey leads me to next!