As a young girl in Detroit, Michigan, I always had desires to be a teacher. Throughout high school and college I worked at various jobs where children were involved like summer camps and tutoring programs. I quickly learned that I had a real passion for special needs children. As an undergraduate student at Wayne State University in Detroit, my major was special education. Upon graduation in 1970, I moved to Shreveport, Louisiana where I began my teaching career working with special needs children in elementary and middle school settings.
After several years, I took a position at Rutherford House, a residential treatment facility for adjudicated youth and became their special education teacher for the next ten years. At that time, little was known about dyslexia, but the majority of my students had severe reading problems and I became very curious about their learning style. Many excelled in areas other than language. I started to get involved in the professional community that was researching the areas of language development and became very interested in their findings.
In 1987 I moved back to Michigan with my two daughters and started teaching elementary, middle school and high school students who were placed in special education because of their low reading abilities. Many, again, had so many other strengths but their language difficulties interfered with their ability to read the provided curriculum.
In 1992 I was hired as a Teacher Consultant in Dearborn, Michigan, where I was part of the special education team at Lindbergh Elementary. My responsibilities included testing students, working with their teachers and families to help design an appropriate curriculum to meet their individual needs, mentoring with other professionals, presenting teacher-training workshops and teaching multi-sensory strategies in small groups to the students on my caseload.
I was initially introduced to a multi-sensory program called Project Read, authored by Torrey Greene and Dr. Enfield. It was designed to help struggling readers and was very successful for the students. I also completed my Masters Degree at Wayne State University in learning disabilities and remained in Dearborn until I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2009. While teaching in Dearborn, I earned several teaching awards, spoke at local, state, and national conferences on learning disabilities, had several articles published in different professional newsletters, enrolled in classes with Dr. Edward Hallowell on ADHD and taught as an adjunct professor at The University of Michigan where I taught Master’s level education students. I also provided summer tutoring to many students using The Project Read model. Reading scores soared!
My home for the past five years has been in Asheville, North Carolina, where I retired to be closer to my family. My passion for teaching dyslexic children is on-going and retirement is in the far future! I have earned advanced training through The Key School at Carolina Day School in Asheville, using the Orton-Gillingham approach and have a private practice tutoring children and adolescents with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I am a member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE) and the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA). I stay active in professional development opportunities and absolutely love what I do! There’s nothing better than seeing those smiling faces when success has been achieved!
More importantly, I am the parent of a daughter who struggled all through school. As a high school student, she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia when many of our questions finally got answered. Her struggles became mine. I became her advocate and learned as much as I could about the complexities of this specific learning difference.
My goals for the future are to continue to educate the public about dyslexia through seminars, publications and my private practice and to continue teaching children and adolescents so that they may reach their full potential.
Leslie Eller, M. Ed.