I always knew that I wanted to be a special education teacher. In college, I was taught that students with learning disabilities would always have them. “That’s how they are. That’s how they will always be…they will have to learn how to deal with it.”
We didn’t learn how to “fix” the disabilities. We just learned how to accommodate and modify. For example, if they couldn’t read, we would read it to them. And so on.
When I taught at the elementary school level, I believed when my students went to middle school their teachers would continue to work on fixing their weaknesses. I had no idea that where they were in their reading level when they left me in 5th grade was where they would still be when they graduated high school. It was heartbreaking.
My last year of teaching, I taught sixth grade. I had 17 students with learning disabilities that were reading between a Kindergarten and a 4th grade level. I had 45 minutes per day to teach them to read. The focus was on getting them prepared to pass the state test. They were allowed to have their tests read to them. No one really cared if they could read, just that they could pass the test. My students were bright and could pass the test as long as it was read to them.
The weight of knowing I wasn't going to be with them when they went to take their driver’s test or fill out a job application was overwhelming. Who cared if they could pass the test if they didn’t have the critical skill of reading? I came home crying almost every night. There had to be something more that I could do.
I began searching for ways to help my students, and found a website that talked about how they were different than a typical tutoring center or school. Their work was based on how the brain processes information. With the right training, the brain can be strengthened to get rid of whatever is actually causing a learning disability in the first place.
This was so different than what I had ever heard before, but it made so much sense to me. For the first time, I felt a sense of hope that I would be able to help all of my students.
I attended the training and was so excited to use these strategies with my students. I spoke to the administration and the special education supervisor and was told that it wasn’t possible to use these strategies in the school. It didn’t matter how effective they were. (After all, while it’s not the schools’ fault, the way they measure success is the number of students who pass the SOLs.)
I was so frustrated! My hands were tied. I had the knowledge, but I wasn’t able to use it. I couldn’t take it anymore so I opened our learning center in March 2003. There was such a need for our specialized work that we grew quickly. I stopped teaching full time so I could focus on running Learning Enhancement Centers.
A few years later, I realized that many of the students coming to us were improving greatly, but were struggling to keep up with all of their schoolwork. It seemed that they needed a school that would remediate their learning challenges and help them catch up their academic skills, without the pressure of our state tests. After searching, I found that there were no schools in our area that provided those services. And so, The Marshall School was started.
We have since helped hundreds of students. We are able to move students through the curriculum as they master concepts. Unlike public schools, we don’t have to cover a certain amount of information each year, so there is no pressure to move on before a student is ready. This ensures that students are not “left behind”. It is amazing to see our students begin to blossom and grow in our specialized environment.
If you are looking for a school that is passionate about serving others and believes that everyone can learn, we are the school for you! We believe that we can help your child enjoy the success that he or she deserves.
We look forward to helping your child!
Our Founder and Director, Christina Carson