Student Spotlight – Ellen
Ellen is an 8th grader at Churchill Center & School. In late January 2018, Ellen wrote an inspired letter to The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
In this letter, Ellen eloquently and passionately shared some of her courageous life – and learning – experiences.
Below is her heartfelt note…
I am an 8th grader at Churchill Center & School for students with Learning Disabilities in St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps we share a name, but to emulate you would be nearly as impossible as every flower pot in the world sprouting legs, and learning to sing. I admire your wit, courage, and love of kindness for all people. You are a true role model to everyone. I have dyslexia and dysgraphia which affects my reading and writing skills.
Every student attending Churchill has a learning disability; our learning styles are different than other children. Having dyslexia or dysgraphia simply means that the brain is wired differently, which often results in high intelligence and creativity.
My dysgraphia means that I cannot write or type as fast as other people my age. My creative brain moves faster than my hands. Until recently in Missouri, the word dyslexia was forbidden to be used in public school systems. I am proud to say that two years ago I went to Jefferson City and helped get a law passed to increase help for the 1 in 5 children with dyslexia. Sadly, many children and adults view people with dyslexia as half-witted. I do not know what it is like to read fluently with ease, but over the years I have grasped small inklings of that feeling. Ellen, I know I am not a pithy writer, but please hang in there with me like an audience waiting for the punchline. My delivery may not be as smooth as yours but is a creative production of my dyslexic brain.
I have attended Churchill Center & School for a great deal of my childhood. When I first came to Churchill I was practically illiterate. The public school system tried to teach me to read and write, but the teachers did not have the specialized training necessary for me to be successful. It was nearly as effective as trying to teach a blind man too see by telling him what colors look like. Ergo, I was sent to Churchill, and within a month or so of attending, I could read and spell basic words. This is true for my classmates as well. Teachers here match their lessons to our individual learning styles and make the necessary accommodations for us to be successful. In addition, the classes are really small, no more than 9 students. Every day the students at Churchill get a 1 hour one on one session, called tutorial. The student is given specialized instruction in the area of their learning disability, in fact in these classrooms, miracles occur daily. In each room of the school hangs a placard with the Churchill Mission Statement. If anyone stopped to read it they would find the words to be true, “give high potential children with learning differences individual, remedial education and support they need to achieve and return to a traditional classroom. And foster greater understanding for all people with learning disabilities training other educators, supporting our family and enlightening in the community”.
All of this brings me back to our name, Ellen. The name Ellen is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning courage. I know you have shown a tremendous amount of courage to overcome hurdles in your life and your life story has really been inspiring to me over my lifetime. From one Ellen to another our, our life journeys have been different, but much like a dandelion is similar to an oak tree through photosynthesis we are similar through how our name describes us, COURAGEOUS. Being dyslexic and dysgraphic is not an easy path to walk, just as yours has not been an easy path to navigate. All roads have rocks and potholes slowing ones progress. Not everyone is able to get the help they need at places like Churchill, but those that do flourish. Time after time, I have watched you on television and frankly, you’ve always been a beacon in the dark, a visual reminder that humans can bring good to the world in this modern day. As you know it takes courage to stand up for what you truly believe in and I like, many other people, have tried to speak out for dyslexia in Missouri.
Churchill Center & School | 1021 Municipal Center Drive, St. Louis, MO 63131
We thank Ellen for her determination, motivation and COURAGE to share her story and advocate on behalf of herself and so many other students.