“I wasn’t sure about the attendance but my colleagues said it would explode,” Childers said.
They were right. The Learning Center opened three years ago with 16 students, and this year, enrollment has hit 40.
“This has grown like gangbusters,” Head of School Chuck Baldecchi said. “In a pretty short time, this has given us a national reputation for work with this community.”
The Learning Center consists of children with dyslexia or language-based learning differences and uses the Orton-Gillingham approach. This is a multi-sensory method that applies visual, audio, tactile and kinesthetic techniques to help build pathways for learning in the brain.
After two or three years of this instruction, students can return to a traditional classroom with the skills needed to succeed.
The Learning Center boasts a 1:4 teacher-student ratio – a percentage that has remained as the program has grown.
Initially situated in four renovated classrooms with Childers and three other teachers, The Learning Center now occupies 10 classrooms with 10 teachers. Childers serves as the director.
The Center is the dream of Brutus Clay, a successful Lexington businessman whose three children attend The Lexington School. Clay struggled with learning difficulties as a child and wanted to honor his parents and enrich the lives of children with learning differences by co-founding this program.
The program has met a need, attracting students from the Bluegrass and beyond, including a family from Hazard that stays in Lexington during the week and another that moved to the area from Memphis so their child could attend.
Once in The Learning Center, students become part of the Lexington School community.
“Kids are making a smooth integration into the larger school,” Baldecchi said. “The kids get a specialized experience while also enjoying the whole elementary school experience.”
In keeping with the “share” component of the program, Childers will train teachers this summer in Orton-Gillingham, including a group from Lexington Catholic, which is opening a similar program for high school students.
For Childers, the greatest joy of the program is its impact on students.
“To see the kiddos gain confidence and to see the sparkle back in their eyes,” she said, “that’s the most gratifying part.”