‘An educational revival’

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Central Park teacher rejuvenated by A-Kids’-Choice Foundation workshop

Story by Sonja Bailes, Bossier Schools

Central Park Elementary third grade teacher Paula Ash is going back to school this week rejuvenated. Not because she had the chance to rest over the weekend, but rather Ash is returning from a three-day professional workshop hosted by A-Kids’-Choice Foundation.

“You know that time in your life when you get fired up about something?” Ash asked. “This has been an educational revival. How did I know this was good? First, people were crying. Second, I didn’t want to get up and go to the bathroom and miss anything because it was just so good.”

Ash, along with 34 other elementary educators and administrators from across Bossier Parish, spent three days learning from one of the best in the country. Ann Larsen, an instructor at Landmark School in Boston, Massachusetts, specializes in educating children with dyslexia and learning difficulties.

A-Kids’-Choice Foundation founder Denise Bankston brought Larsen to Bossier to teach those strategies to our educators, which she stressed work for any child, whether they have language-based difficulties or not.

“They’re embracing this beyond words,” Bankston said of the Bossier teachers selected for the workshop. “I know our students are in better hands because of this. I know what it did for my son.”

Bankston’s son, J.T., struggled with dyslexia in school. It wasn’t until his mother enrolled him at Landmark School that he had a breakthrough. Not only was he able to graduate from high school, but college as well.

“To see that transformation, I knew that was something we needed here,” Bankston said. “And here we are.”

For the past four years, Bankston’s foundation has been paying for Bossier educators to spend a week at Landmark School during the summer for professional development. This time, she decided to bring Larsen here to make an even greater impact parish-wide. Bankston’s only requirement is the educators attending the workshop take back what they learned to their school and teach their colleagues the strategies.

Ash could not wait to get back in the classroom Monday and begin implementing the methods immediately.

“College teaches us that students learn differently and you have to differentiate,” she said. “It’s not that college doesn’t prepare you, but it’s in pieces. We don’t necessarily know how to put it all together. This is a complete framework from bottom to top and makes it all cohesive.”

Once the strategies are in place, Bankston stressed it usually takes two years to see the full effect.

“We have the foundation now set. It will be up to Bossier Parish to follow through,” which Bankston has no doubt will happen.