Six East Feliciana Parish students — Coy Baxter, Joshua Bourque, Emily Hooge, Baylee Husk, Jesse Lee and McKenzie Martin — have completed a two-year program designed to overcome dyslexia.
The Slaughter students, in fourth- through eighth-grade, were the third group to graduate the Dyslexia Training Program, adopted by the Freemasons of Louisiana as their primary philanthropic endeavour in 1998.
The Grand Lodge of Louisiana conducts the program on a cooperative basis with constituent lodges, which includes Slaughter Masonic Lodge 475.
Mason Frank Lemings is chairman of the dyslexia programs in East and West Feliciana schools.
“These students worked very hard to master skills that will see them through the rest of their lives,” said Lemings at the May 14 ceremony honoring the six graduates.
The students, their families and instructors of the program — Slaughter teacher Jennifer Havard, literacy interventionist Karen Kinchen and librarian Lorie Speer — attended the event.
Speer, a former fifth-grade teacher at Slaughter Elementary, was one of the first instructors of the program, along with Sherry Hillman, now retired.
Speer, Hillman and SES Principal Kim Glascock helped launch the first dyslexia classes in 2011 along with Lemings. Also, Hillman designed a computer presentation used to educate parents about the program, which is now utilized by the Grand Lodge to further work in dyslexia programs throughout the state.
“We’ve seen such tremendous growth in these students and their reading levels due to their participation in the program,” Glascock said.
“I’ve learned that I’m smart but just learn in a different way,” Martin said. “I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been and thankful that the Masons started this program.”
The multisensory program emphasizes phonics using a number of different teaching aids including dictionaries, flash cards, linkage paper, three-dimensional letters, videos, wall charts, workbooks and writing frames.
Course material is presented in cursive writing, and the program consists of 350 hours conducted as a one-hour class every weekday, excluding holidays, Lemings said.
Operation of the program, which costs $12,000 per class and covers testing for dyslexia, teacher compensation and materials, is funded by the Grand Lodge.
“My grades are better than when I first started the class. I was making mostly D’s and F’s but now make B’s and C’s and sometimes A’s. The program really works,” student Baylee Husk said.
“I struggled with reading and spelling, which caused poor grades, but this year my parents and my teachers saw a big improvement in both subjects,” graduate Jesse Lee said.
Lee said he also was able to achieve his Accelerated Reader goals three out of the four nine-week grading periods during the school year. “I feel like now I’ll be able to go to college.”
For information about the program, call Lemings at (225) 939-7757.