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San Angelo Lifestyles

Test. Train. Teach

written by sabrina forse | photos provided by jpw learning center & hometown living

Imagine seeking this sentence out from the middle of a crossword puzzle or word jumble. For those with dyslexia, reading and writing means the need to search for a different way to understand. “Think about those highways in San Antonio. There are fifteen different roads crossing one another at the same time, like a bowl of spaghetti. That’s what kids with dyslexia experience. Every thought is going 150 miles per minute and it’s hard to concentrate. You have to work hard to learn how to adapt your brain,” said Linzey Neff. Neff is a volunteer at JPW Learning Center and is also dyslexic. She received the assistance she needed to adapt and be successful and now desires to bring awareness to others.

Dr. Harvey and Ann Williams established the JPW Learning Center, originally called James Phillip Williams Memorial Foundation in 1985, in memory of their son who struggled with dyslexia. “Ann was instrumental in getting the Texas Dyslexia Law passed in 1985. Texas was the first state with a mandate for school districts and dyslexia education,” said Mary Ann Cochran. Cochran is the Executive Director of the JPW Learning Center. “I am a mother of a student with dyslexia so when parents call, I can be empathetic. I’ve been there and tell them that I’ve walked in their shoes.”


The non-profit organization has trained nearly 600 teachers throughout the Concho Valley and state of Texas on how to recognize and teach students with dyslexia. “It’s a two-year training program for teachers to learn how to use the curriculum and how to work with students with dyslexia. Each teacher needs 700 hours before they can take a certification exam to become a licensed dyslexia therapist or practitioner,” said Cochran. In addition, JPW also offers testing services for dysgraphia (handwriting challenges) and dyscalculia (number challenges). In addition, students are able to attend tutoring at the center.

Dr. Harvey and Ann Williams established the JPW Learning Center, originally called James Phillip Williams Memorial Foundation in 1985 in memory of their son who struggled with dyslexia.

Betzy Day was a classroom teacher for 31 years before she retired. Now she’s the Director of Teachers Training at JPW Learning Center where she educates teachers seeking the certification to work with dyslexia students. Day is a Certified Language Therapist, Dyslexia Therapist, and a Qualified Instructor with a Masters in Special Education. “The job of an academic language therapist is to retrain the brain of a student after recognizing that conventional teaching methods are not working. My son was dyslexic and a lot of information at one time was overwhelming. He started to learn by repetition and by receiving information in smaller pieces at a time,” explained Day. “We teach multi-sensory methods where teachers learn to teach students with different learning styles. We hope that teachers can recognize the signs of dyslexia early on so students can then be tested and get the training they need to be successful.”

JPW Center offers training at its location in San Angelo and also travels to school districts across the state to train groups of teachers. Courses offered include: Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia Training, Multi-Sensory Math Training and Rite Flight. Minimal funding for this non-profit comes from the training courses.

The majority of funding comes from two annual fundraisers, the Cookbook Gala and Dia of Dyslexia. “The Cookbook Gala is where we select a cookbook author to come to San Angelo, work with a local chef and then offer a four-course meal using the recipes in the cookbook. The chefs also talk about how the recipes came to be,” said Cochran. 

Dia of Dyslexia is a fall festival type event. “We wanted a family friendly event where kids could simply have fun and parents could ask questions. They don’t have to worry about having a learning disability or being different. They can just be kids and have fun,” said Neff.

Part of fundraising includes bringing awareness to dyslexia. “We give the parents simulations to help them understand that not everyone sees things like you do. One is giving them a piece of paper and asking them to write down everything they did that morning but we tell them, ‘Use only your left hand and write completely in cursive.’ Another is giving them a page of gibberish and asking them to try to read it. Another is asking them to read something without pronouncing any vowels or then again without any consonants,” said Day.


As the non-profit strives to instruct teachers on how to educate students with dyslexia, volunteers also want to bring awareness. “Some parents don’t want to hear that their kid has dyslexia but there are so many successful people that have learning disabilities,” said Neff. “The JPW Learning Center can help parents fight for the accommodations their kids need. You don’t want to hinder anyone with a learning disability. Encourage them and they will be successful and make their mark.” †

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Digital Issue Summer 2021