Educating teachers: Fortune Academy in Lawrence fundraises to continue teaching others on the Orton-Gillingham Approach

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Janet George had to memorize books to get through college because of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Now, she draws on her experience to help others by applying the Orton-Gillingham Approach when teaching students with learning difficulties at Fortune Academy in Lawrence.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a direct, multi-sensory and structured way to teach literacy to students who struggle witt reading, writing and spelling because of conditions such dyslexia.

Janet George teaches educators about the Orton-Gillingham Approach.

“I started Fortune Academy because there wasn’t an option for children who had language-based learning differences besides a public school option for parents to put their child in other than a traditional parochial or private school,” said George, a Geist resident. “There was not a private school that specialized in kids who had learning differences using the Orton-Gillingham teaching we used.

“That’s why I started it. I really felt like there needed to be options for parents.”

George, who started Fortune Academy in 2000, has her fellow level of accreditation from the Orton-Gillingham Academy. There are only three people in Indiana who are accredited at that level.

“She is the only one practicing and the only fellow doing training in Indiana, we believe, on issues with reading and learning and teaching in Indiana,” Fortune Academy Director of Development Andrea Corey said. “We know 1 in 5 people have dyslexia or a learning difference, and if you want to get reading levels better and see improved scores with kids, you have to teach reading differently.”

George teaches other educators how to apply the Orton-Gillingham Approach, but the Fortune Academy has limited space. To help it acquire more, an anonymous donor recently gifted $200,000 to the Fortune Academy with the challenge for the academy to raise matching funds. Corey said the academy has already raised $100,000.

“We are busting at the seams at the school. The school serves kids from first through 12th grade,” George said. “(The donation) would allow us to have learning labs that are really important for hands-on learning for our kids. It also would allow for a teacher training center to take place. It would allow for me to be able to, through technology, train other people across the country without them having to drive or fly and spend two weeks here in Indiana.”

George can teach the application to up to 12 educators, who attend eight-hour classes each day for two weeks at Fortune Academy. They finish the course, then complete 100 hours of practicum and submit lesson plans to George before they are considered Orton-Gillingham Approach associates. The training is only offered at Fortune Academy twice a year. George recently transitioned from the role of head of school to an honorary board of trustees member to have more opportunities to educate teachers on the approach.

“Her moving into this full time is going to open the door to do more trainings throughout the year rather than just two, which is why a place for this is so needed,” Corey said.

When the funds are acquired and the center is built, it will be named the Janet and Kelly George Teacher Training and Resource Center. Kelly George is Janet’s husband.

For more, or to donate, visit thefortuneacademy.org.

Fortune Academy is a school for students with learning differences, such as dyslexia.

By the numbers

  • 90-100: The average number of first through 12th-grade students at the Fortune Academy
  • $18,000-$21,000: Tuition costs to attend Fortune Academy for one year
  • 6-to-1: Student-to-teacher ratio
  • 40: Percentage of dyslexic students at Fortune Academy
  • 1 in 5: The possibility of someone requiring more direct teaching because of learning differences
  • 50 percent: The chance of someone who is dyslexic also being diagnosed with ADD or ADHD
  • $200,000: The amount an anonymous donor donated for the Janet and Kelly George Teacher Training and Resource Center
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