Not everyone learns the same way. For a person with a learning difference, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia, those differences can create a gap in learning that can last a lifetime.
Hillside School in Gunbarrel has a mission to close that academic gap for each and every child that walks through the doors. The small half-day school has been providing options for families and helping hundreds of students since 2005.
Kathy Sherman, Hillside’s director and co-founder, has devoted her entire career to understanding the ways that kids with learning differences learn best. She has 23 years of teaching under her belt, and degrees in learning disabilities. She founded both a learning center and the Bridge School, a private school that later became Temple Grandin School. Early in her teaching career, she developed and implemented two of the first programs for dyslexic students in the American military European school system.
Sherman started Hillside because there were so few resources in the area for children with learning differences.
“The services were inadequate to help these kids learn to read and write,” said Sherman.
Approximately 10 percent of the population has some form of learning disability, and traditional educational practices can’t always serve children who struggle to keep up with their classmates. To help other educators with this, Hillside also offers teacher trainings and professional development.
Hillside’s structure is set up to help students stay in their current school while they learn with Hillside. Kids can spend a half-day there either during the morning or afternoon, working solely on math, reading and writing. Sherman notes that they work with each child’s school so that the classes they spend time on at Hillside aren’t duplicated at their current school.
“We try to create that perfect balance, and want to make sure they’re getting electives when they’re not with us,” she said.
Hillside serves students in grades first through ninth. There are 64 students currently enrolled, and the school structure allows for four students per teacher. Kids that attend come from public, private and home schools.
“About three-fourths of our students are from public schools, with the rest enrolled in private schools and a handful of homeschooled kids,” Sherman added.
This is Hillside’s first year in their new location on Lookout Road in Gunbarrel, which was the location of the now-closed Joycare Daycare and Preschools. They moved in during June 2017.
“It was a scramble, but we were ready to go when school started that fall,” said Sherman.
The average stay for students at Hillside is anywhere from one to three years, at which time they are transitioned back into their regular school. And according to Sherman, that is Hillside’s purpose.
“Our goal is to get that academic gap closed. We want them back in their other school full-time. That’s our job. We want to get them on their feet so that they can fully participate in their ‘home’ school. We transition half our kids out every year, because they’re ready to go.”
For more information, you can visit www.hillsidelearning.org or call 303-494-1468.