With a Kaboom! a POW! and a Kazam!, Liberty School inducted its own superhero founder Joyce Bilgrave into the Dyslexia Hall of Fame on Nov. 8.
Bilgrave is a serial founder – way better than a serial killer – having founded or helped launch several schools and camps devoted to working with those who must deal with the challenges of dyslexia, including The Jemicy School of Baltimore; the Rawson-Saunders School in Austin, Texas; Camp Bombadil, a day camp for dyslexic students; Big Rock Creek Camp, a conference and outdoor science center in Southern California; and Durango Mountain Camp, a boarding and day camp in the summer at Colorado Timberline Academy for intensive tutoring with dyslexic young people. Wow, it makes me tired just writing about it.
It had been kept a surprise, and apparently no one spilled the beans based on the look on her face. Her response? In her normal self-effacing style, “This is nuts,” and then, “Life is fleeting, to be able to do something worthwhile with it is such a pleasure.”
Bilgrave has had a 40-year journey of developing and providing effective education methods for students who are dyslexic, gifted or both – deemed twice exceptional. It began when her son was diagnosed with the funky wiring in the brain, and she realized what a dearth of resources was available.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability found to some degree in 15 to 20 percent of children. It affects different people in different ways and can come with some unique advantages – one thing I learned from writing a story about how we deal with dyslexia last year is that many dyslexic folks have tremendous spatial abilities, something I lack in spades.
About 5 percent of children are gifted, meaning they score in the top percentiles on intelligence or academic achievement tests. Twice gifted students can find themselves in a bit of a quandary – sometimes their gifts mask their dyslexic challenges, but it’s also possible that their dyslexic challenges will mask just how smart they are.
All of them benefit from the intensive tutoring and one-on-one attention The Liberty School provides. But that doesn’t come cheap, and while the school’s tuition of $13,000 sounds pricey, when you look at comparable schools that charge $27,000 to $39,000, and the results Liberty gets, it’s a bargain. And two-thirds of the students attend the school on scholarships, with the school’s board trying to make sure that no student who needs Liberty’s teaching is excluded because of money.
The goal for the evening, which also included a significant silent auction, was to raise $30,000 for scholarships, and they came close, coming in just shy of $26,000
At the event, Head of School Christian Holmen and Administrative Director Suzette Collard kept things going (probably what she does at the school, too). The former described Bilgrave as a force of nature, which is certainly true, and the latter presented the woman of the hour with her very own red satin superhero cape. Eat your heart out, Superman.
Bilgrave never stops dreaming big.
She took her acceptance speech opportunity to share a dream, that Liberty becomes a Southwest center of learning both for students with dyslexia and for their teachers.
“If you know anyone who has a dyslexic kid and $3 or $4 million, have them give us a call,” she said.
Congratulations, Joyce, on your well-deserved honor.
Bilgrave joins Rod Barker, Paul Folwell, Edward Jackson, Lisa Schuba, Quinn Harris, Ian Altman, Claude Steelman, Matt Kelly, Clyde Church, Keeton Disser, Brady Paulek, Durango Police Department Chief Jim Spratlen, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet in the Hall of Fame.
Organizers also made sure to share The Liberty School’s mission with attendees, showing a video made by students about all the offerings at the school, which include science and math, with a little adventure and filmmaking thrown in along with the intensive language training. One thing I like about Liberty is that students are placed in classes according to skill set rather than age, so students are always challenged and engaged.
A few students and former students shared their musical talent with the crowd of about 110. Emily Vierling shone on the violin; Liberty grad Terra Goens has a voice for the blues that knocks your socks off; and the Five Disgraces, which includes former Liberty students Chris Atchison and his twin, Sam Atchison, along with Nate Turner in addition to their friends Santana Martinez and Gracie Swanson (who I assume is the inspiration for the band’s name), who are getting their rock on.
If you would like to support The Liberty School and its work, mail your tax-deductible contributions to 215 E. 12th St., Durango, CO 81301.
These folks might be celebrating the first snowy birthdays of the year, so maybe warm clothing would be a good idea for gifts – Sharon Gordon, Joanne Spina, Julie Shimada, Will Siegrist, Carol Grenoble, Ryan Overington, Pamela Sossaman, Patrick McBrayer, Marti Kiely, Denise Polsfut, Mike Johnson, Tamra Lavengood, Alma Wolf, Jackie Manning, Donovan Schardt, Larry Rardin, Cynthia Kring, Betty Ann Beauregard, Bill Bishop and Will Berger.
Whoa, the days on the calendar are flying by, and the holidays are fast approaching. Whether you’re looking for a good book – or pile of books – for a cold winter’s night or a fine condition coffee table book for an affordable gift for your favorite reader, the Friends of the Durango Public Library’s Holiday Book Sale is the place for you.
It runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today in the program rooms at the library, 1900 East Third Ave. Books are $1 per pound, a savings of 33 percent from the usual $1.50, and a Friends’ bagful will run you $10.
While you’re there, take a moment to thank them for all they do for the library. In the last two years alone, they have donated more than $80,000 to support programs and services the library cannot afford. This book sale will help them keep the support going.
This is a call for information from longtime residents out there. Debra Seltzer is working on an article for a preservation group about mechanical signs, and she wants to include our very own chief from the Chief Diner that now stands across 9th Street from Toh-Atin Gallery. She’s already done a lot of research, but she has a few nagging questions that will make her piece complete:
When was the sign installed?
When did the name change from the Chief Diner to the Chief Restaurant?
And is the sign connected somehow to a similar sign installed in front of a Pontiac dealership in Cincinnati in 1954, and if so, how?
All I could tell her was that the Chief pointed to the turn-off to my house when I was little – very convenient when giving directions – and the diner cook made really good blueberry pancakes.
If you can be of more help and can answer one or more of these questions, email the information to Seltzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weather will be perfect for hot cider and a roaring fire for the anniversaries of Paul and Beverly Dittmer, Don and Mary Southworth and Paul and Betty Ann Beauregard. (Boy, Paul, the pressure’s on – if you forget her birthday, you forget your anniversary, too!)
Here’s how to reach me: email@example.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.
I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory).