Learning Ally Honors Outstanding Teachers of Students with Print Disabilities

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National awards spotlight best instructional practices for students who struggle to read because of dyslexia and visual disabilities

Having a lifelong hearing impairment hasn’t deterred Erika Fedo from igniting a love of reading among her students with dyslexia and print disabilities.

For the dyslexic children I work with, I don’t call it disability. They think differently. They show me things that I never considered.

Learning Ally, a national nonprofit serving individuals across the U.S. with visual, physical and learning disabilities, will honor two outstanding teachers on April 9th during its Student Success and Achievement celebration in Denver, Colorado.

Complementing the National Achievement Awards that the organization has presented for decades to remarkable students with print and reading-based disabilities, Learning Ally has launched its first-ever awards honoring educators on the leading edge of best practices in teaching those types of students -- who number in the millions nationwide.

The Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Awards recognize exemplary leadership and innovative efforts in classroom instruction for students who struggle to read because of learning differences and visual disabilities. More than 140 teachers across the country were nominated by an array of students, parents, and other educators. In addition to choosing the top two national awardees, Learning Ally’s award selection committee identified 42 teachers who will receive special honors recognition later in April on the Learning Ally website and social media channels.

This year’s top awards will be presented to:

  • Erika Fedo, a third and fourth grade teacher at Village Elementary School in Montgomery Township District, New Jersey. Having a lifelong hearing impairment and being 90 percent deaf hasn’t deterred Erika from igniting a love of reading among her students with dyslexia and print disabilities. Her empathy, insight and mastery of assistive technology has aided her launch of a remarkable book club in which young students who had previously struggled to read now read with their ears, and flock to school an hour early to enthusiastically discuss their favorite books – to the delight of their parents and other teachers.
  • Cindy Kanuch, a learning/reading specialist who plays a highly influential role with students and teachers at the Calhan School in Calhan, Colorado. Embracing a model of neurodiversity and celebrating the strengths of students with dyslexia and learning differences, Cindy has immersed herself in Orton-Gillingham methods of reading instruction and continually drives professional development and best practices among her fellow teachers. Thanks in large part to her influence, the Calhan School made a major leap within one year from Turn Around level to Performance level recognition by the Colorado Department of Education.

“Teachers like Erika and Cindy are on the front lines of a movement driving change in the mainstream educational system to help ALL students succeed,” says Andrew Friedman, Learning Ally President and CEO. “They have truly leveled the playing field and fostered a passion for learning in their students. We’re grateful to the Reitnouer family for enabling us to highlight their achievements for the public.”

On April 9, the two teachers will speak on panels and participate in the Reading in the City Conference in Denver, a day-long symposium for 300-plus educators focusing on best practices and innovations in reading instruction for students who learn differently.

About Learning Ally:
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally supports K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom read and learn differently due to dyslexia, blindness or visual impairment, and other disabilities. The organization hosts live and virtual events for families and teachers; provides instructive webinars led by experts as well as peer-to-peer sessions led by students; personal consultations for parents; and professional development workshops for educators. Learning Ally’s collection of 82,000 human-narrated audio textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded by students using their smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit http://LearningAlly.org

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Doug Sprei
Learning Ally
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