Reading Specialist Judy Livingston (right) pictured with Susan Barton (left).

Reading Specialist Judy Livingston (right) pictured with Susan Barton (left).

Meet Judy Livingston

On a warm fall afternoon, the parent of one of Judy Livingston’s students walked into her room.  “How do you think Will* is doing?”  the mother inquired.  Judy, wanting to get a sense from her first, returned the question, “How do you think he is doing?”  The mother broke into a wide grin, the skin under her eyes gently creasing, “He is trying to read street signs.  He never did that before.”

As Wildwood Elementary School’s Reading Specialist, Judy knows all too well that students with dyslexia rarely take the risk to sound things out.  Students who struggle with reading, writing and spelling often feel helpless which makes school and home-life frustrating.  

Once considered a blanket term, a catch-all for every struggling reader, dyslexia – meaning difficulty with language – is now recognized as a learning difference that impacts one out of every five people in our country.    

The lack of phonemic awareness is one of the benchmarks of dyslexia.  Judy explains it this way, “Kids with dyslexia cannot parse the sounds C-A-T.  They only hear CAT – it is one sound to them.” Without phonemic awareness, the basic building block for reading, students struggle to make strides and often fail to meet school and state standards.  The good news is that the learning gap can be closed with increased professional development and strong intervention. 

Committed to her struggling readers, Judy applied for a MAEF Hansen Inspired Teacher Grant to attend an intensive, 6-day Screening for Dyslexia training seminar presented by Susan Barton, a leader on dyslexia intervention.  Thanks to MAEF’s grant funding, Judy is now a Dyslexia Consultant for the district and educates Mahtomedi’s Early Childhood, Preschool, Wildwood and OH Anderson staff how to recognize the traits of dyslexia.  

Grateful to MAEF funding, Judy is quick to convey that her teaching has been rejuvenated and her work “has been enhanced by all the knowledge that I gained from the seminar.”  The training has prepared her to work with “students differently and more deliberately…I am better prepared to meet my struggling readers where they are at and move them forward.  Dyslexia is so much more than reversing b’s and d’s.  It is so powerful to see my students overcome these challenges.  Really powerful.”

By Alicia Gatto Petersen