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13 McAllen ISD teachers to Take Flight for students with dyslexia

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The following McAllen ISD educators have been accepted into a two-year program called Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia. Their training will enable them to better help students with dyslexia. Seated, left to right, Ester Zavala (Milam Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Martha Narvaez Del Luna (Seguin Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Jesus Perez (Castaneda Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Salvador Flores (McAllen ISD Dyslexia Director). In the back row, left to right, are Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos (McAllen ISD Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services), Tiffany Gracia (Gonzalez Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Diana Trevino (Alvarez Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Elva Guerra (De Leon Middle School Dyslexia Teacher), Marcos Casas (Travis MS Dyslexia Teacher), Carla Walk (Rayburn Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Ileana Reyna (Fields Elem. Dyslexia Teacher),Veronica Balli (Fields Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), Gilda Rios (Milam Elem. Dyslexia Teacher), and Nora Garcia (Wilson Elem. Dyslexia Teacher). Not pictured is Elizabeth Montalvo (Houston Elem. Dyslexia Teacher).

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October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. What better way to kick the month off than by announcing that 13 McAllen ISD teachers are set to Take Flightfor students with dyslexia. 

School districts across the state are experiencing a critical shortage of credentialed, highly trained dyslexia therapists and teachers who can provide services to students with dyslexia. Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia is a two-year training in Academic Language Therapy that will be provided by the James Phillips Williams Memorial Foundation, based in San Angelo, Texas. Upon completion of this training, these 13 McAllen ISD teachers will have earned the designation of Certified Academic Language Therapists (CALT), a prestigious certification in the field of dyslexia. 

“Certification is important because it ensures that an individual has completed a comprehensive, therapist-level, multi-sensory, structured language training course based on the work of Dr. Samuel Orton, a neurologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist,” Sal Flores, McAllen ISD’s Director of Section 504/RTI/Dyslexia, said. “CALT is accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC).” 

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Texas does not require teachers to hold a specialized certification or license in order to provide dyslexia intervention for students, though the state does require them to have additional, documented training in dyslexia. Take Flight is a curriculum created by the staff of the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders at Scottish Rite for Children. According to the Scottish Rite for Children website, “The purpose was to enable students with dyslexia to achieve and maintain better word recognition, reading fluency, reading comprehension and aid in the transition from a therapy setting to ‘real world’ learning.” 

“This opportunity was made possible through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, provided by the United States Congress to address the academic impact of COVID-19 and virtual learning,” Flores said.  

“For ESSER funding use, we took the input of staff and the community,” Dr. Rosalba De Hoyos, McAllen ISD Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services, said. “We also looked at the needs we have for instructional and teacher development.”  

While 13 McAllen ISD teachers have been selected for the program, two more are tentative. Take Flight training will begin July 6, 2022. In addition to the two-year training program, teachers must also provide proof of 700 tutoring hours utilizing the Take Flight curriculum. Once they have completed the program and the tutoring hours, they qualify to take the certification test through the Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA). After passing this exam, they are ready to apply for their CALT license. While McAllen ISD is funding the training, the teachers will reimburse the district through their training-time commitment and their promise to serve McAllen ISD students with dyslexia for at least five years after earning their certification and license. 

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Flores credits McAllen ISD administration and School Board members for understanding the value of having CALT teachers serving district students, the teachers for agreeing to make this time commitment, and the JPW Learning Center for providing the training program specifically for the district. The ultimate goal, he said, is to provide students with dyslexia with excellence in education. 

“Having CALT teachers makes a difference because this curriculum targets each student’s individual level of difficulty and provides support in the areas where the student has gaps,” Flores said. “And when students discover their strengths, they learn how to approach situations that may have previously caused them to give up, with confidence and determination.” 

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