Steamboat teacher training focuses on Orton-Gillingham reading approach |

Steamboat teacher training focuses on Orton-Gillingham reading approach

Teresa Ristow

Leslie Kesson, of Orton-Gillingham International. leads a training session at the Steamboat Springs School District administration offices Wednesday morning.The training session was made possible by the Increasing Achievement and Growth grant that BOCES was awarded in 2013.

— Teachers from the region are training in Steamboat this week on the basics of a philosophical strategy to help students learning to read.

The 27 teachers attending this week are among 75 this summer who are learning from a trainer hired by the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services to teach a program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which focuses on phonics and mnemonic instruction.

The trainings are part of a three-year Colorado Department of Education "Increasing Achievement and Growth" grant NW BOCES received in 2013.

Orton-Gillingham trainer Leslie Kesson said she first learned the approach six years ago while teaching at Erie Elementary School outside Longmont.

"I had never found this type of instruction before," Kesson said. "I truly had a lightbulb go off when I found this."

In use since the 1930s, the approach is language-based and multi-sensory and focuses on teaching the basics of word formation before the meanings of whole words. The approach is recognized as particularly effective with dyslexic learners.

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Kesson was trained by longtime Orton-Gillingham fellow Ron Yoshimoto, who brought the approach to school teachers in Hawaii and saw dramatic increases in students’ reading abilities and related test scores within only a few years.

When Kesson — and other teachers in Erie — learned the approach, she saw a difference in the students right away.

"I had given them the code. They could access reading," Kesson said. "It's very exciting to see a child get it."

Kesson retired from a 30-year teaching career this year and is now able to spend more time training. She spent part of the summer running trainings in Craig, Kremmling and now Steamboat.

Primarily Routt County teachers are taking part in this week's training, though each training was open to selected teachers from seven Northwest Colorado districts that work with BOCES.

The trainings were paid for out of the BOCES grant and cost roughly $700 per teacher, according to Beth Melton, BOCES grant coordinator.

BOCES' Increasing Achievement and Growth grant specifically targets kindergarten through third-grade students with disabilities, but Melton and Kesson said the Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for many students without disabilities.

"It meets kids at all levels," Kesson said. "It's not just for the struggling kids. It reaches the high-level kids too."

This is the third summer BOCES has offered Orton-Gillingam trainings, an approach that is gaining popularity among local teachers and principals, Melton said.

"These strategies are really helping all kids," Melton said.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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