Faith Baptist Bible College (FBBC) hosted a Dyslexia Friendly Classroom Summit on June 14-17, 2022. The summit was designed for teachers who wanted to learn more about dyslexia and how they can make small changes in their classrooms to help students. Each participant received 30 hours of continuing education credit, and those from Iowa received two renewal credits toward their Iowa teaching license. The consensus from attendees was that the knowledge and skills they learned will not only help those who struggle with dyslexia but all students.

“If you do something that helps a student with dyslexia, you are helping all students,” said Jan Wooster, an attendee who wears many hats in education as an adjunct faculty member at FBBC, a substitute teacher in a Western Iowa public school, and also a homeschool supervisor. “For instance, repeating things many times and using the multi-senses helps every student. Even though we are thinking about kids who are dyslexic and doing what we can to help them, we are being better teachers and learning strategies that will help everyone.”

The summit was led by Cindy Hall, a FBBC graduate who has become a nationally-recognized expert in the area of dyslexia over the last 20 years. She is the founding director of the Dyslexia Center at Lindsay Lane Christian Academy in Athens, Alabama. It is her passion to help teachers understand how to foster success in dyslexic students sitting in their classrooms by sharing her experience, knowledge, and best practices.

“It’s what I was born to do,” said Cindy, in an interview during the summit. “I enjoyed the one-on-one aspect of working with children, and the methodology of using an immersive phonics-based program made sense to me because I had spent 17 years as a classroom teacher in Christian schools, so I was very familiar with phonics programs.”

After leaving classroom teaching to focus on tutoring, she missed the Christian school environment, but as God always does, He provided her with the perfect opportunity at the perfect time.

“One of my schools invited me to develop a dyslexia center program and hired me to develop and run that program. I prayed about it for a long time and was willing to do it. I spent 10 years as the director of a dyslexia center that was housed inside a large Christian school. We started with six little students whose mothers were brave enough to give them into my care, and we ended up with 54 students who were in our program.”

Cindy eventually turned the program over and began the Dyslexia Friendly Classroom training program, after seeing the need for it as the director of the Dyslexia Center. This summer, she has been hired by several schools to do conferences. She also has an online version of the class called “Dyslexia Friendly Classroom” which can be found on her website at cindyhallconsulting.com. The online version is a six-week course, which is convenient for those who can’t make it to a conference like the one at FBBC but doesn’t have the unique in-person component that Faith attendees raved about.

Conference Draws Rave Reviews

“The comradery between everyone has been terrific,” said Kelly Appell, an upper-elementary teacher who was attending from the state of New York. Kelly mentioned “going out to lunch, the ‘teacher talk’ all day long, and just getting feedback from other teachers” as some of her favorite parts of the four-day summit.

Katie Barron, a teacher at FBBC in the ESL program and a tutor of two dyslexic students, echoed Appell’s remarks:

“I think what is unique about this conference is that all attendees are Christians, and we represent different Christian schools. We all have a very similar goal, we all have a unity that is very unique, and there are some struggles that we can share. I haven’t experienced that with other conferences.”

Each day of the summit began with prayer for the various schools and ministries of the attendees, followed by heavy instruction on topics like Orton-Gillingham principles, dyslexia friendly classroom procedures and organization, strengths and weaknesses of dyslexic students, what to do when you suspect one of your students is dyslexic, and best practices for math and writing. In the afternoons, students spent time working on materials they could take back and incorporate into their own classrooms. The hands-on aspect of the summit was a favorite part of many of the attendees. The group finished the day discussing a book they were assigned to read called “Fish in a Tree,” which helped them understand the feelings and mindset of a dyslexic student.

Attendees of the summit left the conference with increased confidence for their classrooms and new skills that will make them better teachers and make their students better learners. It’s a win-win all the way around, no matter the age that is being taught.

“All teachers want to do better,” said Nancy Cole, an adjunct faculty member and study skills teacher at FBBC. “We always see students who are struggling, and we have those questions of ‘What do I do? How do I reach that student?’ This is just another opportunity to find a way to get into the mind of a younger person like this, or even older, and to figure out things that you can do to really help them to make it and succeed.”

The summit emphasized the Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching dyslexic students as its foundational principles. It taught teachers how to screen for dyslexia (teachers can’t test for dyslexia; only screen) and emphasized that early intervention and detection are key components toward positive outcomes. It is estimated that dyslexia affects as much as 20% of the American population and is a predominant factor in those with learning disabilities.

Not only will dyslexic students benefit mentally in the classroom from increased knowledge and skills learned by teachers and school administrators, there is another benefit and consequence that can’t be overstated: the spiritual aspect of those who struggle with dyslexia.

“The students’ greatest need is their heart,” said Jeanie Saylor, an attendee and educator from Creston, Iowa, and an alumna of FBBC. “If we can help students be able to read God’s Word, what’s going to change that student? God’s Word. That’s a real highlight of this conference.”

If you would like more information on Dyslexia Friendly Classroom training, visit cindyhallconsulting.com.