First dyslexia specialist graduates

Posted 06/05/17

Margaret ReilleyThis spring, Margaret Reilley, a teacher in New Jersey’s Stafford Township School District, earned her master’s degree, top grades, and the distinction of being the first graduate of Fitchburg State University’s new dyslexia specialist concentration. 

From her home 260 miles away from the Massachusetts campus, Reilley tackled literacy, language disorders, assessment methods, and other related topics to earn her M.Ed. in Special Education: Guided Studies – Dyslexia Specialist. The online program launched in fall 2015 in partnership with Wilson Language Training, a nationally recognized leader in multisensory structured language programs based on Orton-Gillingham principles of instruction.

“It was always a goal of mine to pursue a master’s degree,” said Reilley, a special education teacher at McKinley Avenue Elementary School in Manahawkin. “With these courses and the Wilson training, I was able to increase my knowledge about learning disabilities and how to best help all of my students.”

The program provides educators with a master’s degree in special education and certification in Wilson Reading System Level I (Wilson Dyslexia Practitioner) and Level II (Wilson Dyslexia Therapist), which are accredited by the International Dyslexia Association.

Educators who have earned Wilson Reading System credentials and Fitchburg State graduate credit are eligible to transfer their course work toward the master’s degree if earned within the past six years and if the degree is completed within six years of the first completed course.  

The program is geared toward educators currently working or pursuing career opportunities as a Title I or reading teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, private tutor, special education teacher (moderate special needs), or special education reading specialist.

One in five children in the U.S. have learning and attention issues, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Dyslexia, one of the most common learning disabilities, is neurobiological in nature and affects one’s ability to read accurately and fluently. Over the past three years, a number of states have passed legislation requiring schools and districts to better identify students with dyslexia through screening methods, address their needs through explicit multisensory structured language instruction, and provide educators with training in this instruction to address the needs of students with dyslexia.

Based in Oxford, Mass., Wilson Language Training was co-founded nearly three decades ago by Fitchburg State alumna Barbara A. Wilson, and her husband, Ed Wilson. The organization provides evidence-based, multisensory structured language curricula and ongoing professional learning to literacy educators and school districts throughout the country.

“We are thrilled that Maggie has completed this program, and that students in the Stafford Township School District will benefit from the skills and knowledge she has developed,” said Barbara Wilson. “Our partnership with Fitchburg State University provides an ideal opportunity for educators as they enter the next stage of their career in the expanding field of dyslexia education.”

“The new dyslexia specialist concentration marks a terrific collaboration with Wilson Language Training and provides our students with a peerless opportunity,” said Fitchburg State President Richard S. Lapidus. “The educators who earn these combined credentials will be even more effective in their own classrooms.”

The program’s online format has attracted students from throughout the United States and Canada, said Anne Howard, chair of Fitchburg State’s Graduate Programs in Severe Disabilities and Special Education Guided Studies.

Reilley said the program’s format helped her meet her educational goals while also balancing work and family life.

“I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I enjoyed all aspects of this program, though the thing I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to work with knowledgeable Fitchburg professors and Wilson trainers,” she said. “All of the courses, workshops, and Wilson practicum experiences have really helped me to grow as an educator. Professional development is important to me because I believe that as educators, we need to continue to learn new strategies and ways to help our students be successful.”

Fitchburg State University’s Office of Graduate & Continuing Education is hosting an information session on its master’s degree programs from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 8. A breakout session on the M.Ed. in Special Education: Guided Studies – Dyslexia Specialist program will begin at 5:30 p.m.

For more information about the academic program, visit www.fitchburgstate.edu/dyslexia or contact the Graduate Continuing Education department at 978-665-3182 or email gce@fitchburgstate.edu. For more information about Wilson Language Training and its programs, visit www.wilsonlanguage.com.

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