by Honor Taft, Friends School Head of School

I am excited to share that teachers Rebecca Gorton (Kindergarten) and Annika Nygren (1st grade) have joined the ranks of teachers with Orton-Gillingham(OG) training. This is a multi-sensory approach to phonics instruction that was originally designed to teach children with dyslexia to read. We now know that all learners benefit from this rich instructional approach and we are excited to integrate it into our literacy program for all students at Friends.

Annika says of the experience: “While it was hard to leave my first graders, the Orton-Gillingham training was phenomenal. The OG method intentionally creates instruction that is accessible to all learners. I have already been able to implement the visual, auditory and kinesthetic components of the methodology into my small literacy groups. I can’t wait to continue deepening the strong literacy foundations of the Friends School students.”

Rebecca explains “Orton-Gillingham is multi-sensory, developmentally appropriate, and science-based. OG balances respect for a child’s development and love of reading with scientific-based sequencing that allows me to teach with confidence and outcomes in mind. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have completed this excellent training! I am already witnessing my students’ literacy growth because of Orton-Gillingham in my classroom!”

Annika’s and Rebecca’s completion of this training means that as we begin our 2019-20 school year, we will have four OG trained teachers at Friends elementary – Kindergarten, first and second grades, as well as Tricia Callahan, our literacy resource teacher. One of the marks of a strong elementary program is a skilled faculty who participate in ongoing professional development to enhance their teaching, and this team is eager to engage in continuous learning.

Another mark of excellence is a cohesive, carefully coordinated curriculum that forms the backbone of the learning experience. This OG professional development kicked off the first step of a careful examination of our elementary literacy program. Upon Annika’s and Rebecca’s return from training, this teaching team, led by Mandy Stepanovsky, critically examined the K-1 literacy curriculum and revised and expanded on the already strong work of the Friends School program. Over the next few months Mandy will lead similar reviews of the literacy program in grades 2–5. Look for more on this from Mandy in the next several months.  

As we do this work, we are carefully attending to our purpose and priorities: At Friends School our students collaborate, create and engage their passions while learning. Our goal: raise and educate good people who can and will enact change for the better. Learning to read and write is useful in and of itself, but it becomes truly meaningful when it helps us communicate, collaborate and get things done.

Thank you to those who support professional development for our faculty, which is one of the most meaningful ways to impact our students’ learning experiences. We are grateful to you. I look forward to sharing more as we continue to fill these sails with wind and move swiftly into the future.



Honor Taft

Head of School

Challenging minds. Nurturing spirits. Honoring individuality.