How Laurel Schneider is changing lives at JB Akron
As an Intervention Specialist for a public school, Laurel Schneider knew what it was like to work with children who have learning differences. On a normal day, Schneider worked with one to five students per period, giving specialized pull-out instruction to kids who struggled with reading, math, and other subjects.
But her normal days were lacking a deeper connection. When she heard about Julie Billiart Schools and visited the website, she was struck by the “family approach” and familial culture of the JB Way. She met JB Akron Principal, Jason Wojnicz, and immediately felt at home. She started working at Julie Billiart Schools shortly after.
“It feels so homey here. You can walk into any classroom or any part of the building and be yourself,” she said. “That’s pretty remarkable.”
Now, she’s taught the third grade class at JB Akron for two years and enjoys the challenge of introducing third graders to new topics as they mature out of their primary grades. Wojnicz knew right away that Schneider’s heart for her students and adventurous, upbeat attitude would make her the perfect candidate for the Wilson Reading System.
"Laurel's dedication and drive to support our students made it an easy decision to support her in the training process for the Wilson Reading System,” said Wojnicz. “She continuously looks at the development of the student and considers the next step, which is critical when working with students with specific learning needs. I am able to put a high level of trust in her to make the best decisions on her strategies and implementation of those strategies."
Over the summer, Schneider completed the Wilson Reading System Course and began using the program with four qualified third graders at JB Akron.
“I’m so grateful that Jason and Julie Billiart Schools have allowed me to go through this program. It’s helped me develop as a teacher. This program is not a cheap program, but it’s an investment in our kids,” said Schneider.
According to the Wilson Reading System website, “The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) is the flagship program of Wilson Language Training® and the foundation of all other Wilson programs. WRS directly and systematically teaches the structure of the English language. Through the program, students learn fluent decoding and encoding skills to the level of mastery.”
Schneider said that the systematic nature of the program is ideal for her students, as many children with learning differences thrive on routine and repetition.
“So much in the traditional reading system today is too fast for our students. They’re being rushed to meet certain standards,” said Schneider. “If the students can’t read the words they see, how can we expect them to comprehend them? Now, using this program, we take a step back and use a multi sensory approach to teaching students how to read different words. Once confidence and mastery is there reading the word in isolation, that’s when we move into sentences and passages. That is when comprehension comes.”
One of Schneider’s third grade students, Brody, has experienced an absolute transformation in his first year at Julie Billiart Schools. Brody’s parents elected to remove him from public school after noticing that he still didn’t know all of the letters of the alphabet at the end of second grade.
“We went through quite the turmoil,” said Brody’s mother, Jessica Bailey. “His school said that he may never read. I felt as if I was constantly having to fight tooth and nail to get him any assistance. Our school psychologist at the time said that we shouldn’t set our hopes for Brody too high. That’s a terrible weight to put on someone so young. ”
Brody’s parents found Julie Billiart Schools through personal contacts and research. After a meeting with Wojnicz, they felt that an investment in a JB education would be worthwhile.
“I thought, something has to give,” said Ms. Bailey. “This boy deserves a chance.”
Brody joined JB’s third-grade class during the 2019-2020 school year. Shy, with a severe speech delay and shattered confidence, Brody quickly attached himself to Schneider and settled into a new routine. By early October, his parents began to notice a difference in his confidence. He had friends, loved his teacher, and looked forward to school every day.
The biggest testament to Schneider and the impact of the Wilson Reading Program is Brody’s “transformative” progress. According to Brian Bailey, Brody’s father, Brody couldn’t read the word “the” when he started at Julie Billiart Schools.
Now nearing the end of third grade, Brody can read passages independently.
“If I could take Mrs. Schneider home with me, I would,” said Ms. Bailey. “And it’s not just her. It’s the whole environment of Julie Billiart Schools. They gave him a place where he can be himself.”