Dear Kildonan Friends and Family,
Eighteen years ago, the Kildonan School introduced me to what has become the passion of my working life: to unlock the powers of the dyslexic mind. When I first arrived, I knew nothing of dyslexia, let alone of how imaginatively offbeat and energetically inventive a dyslexic can be. While I received world-class Orton-Gillingham training and mentoring over the years from the school's legendary experts, the students themselves taught me the most vital lessons in how to collaborate with them in the dynamic arena that is the dyslexic brain. Now that I am at the school as the Headmaster, they are teaching me still. From the innovative Independent Project currently afoot (see Alli Gubanich's blog "Learning Redux") to the art work currently gracing our new art gallery's walls, Kildonan students are unveiling their inimitable worldview in ways that simultaneously educate themselves and the wider community. During my time teaching here, through my time leading Camp Dunnabeck, and now as Headmaster, the dyslexics who come to our campus for any of our programs have also demonstrated for me their innate talents on playing fields, in our fully provisioned gymnasium (built and opened in 2008), on horseback, and on the slopes. The students' confidence in themselves and in the importance of their gifts can be seen in all these endeavors, and that faith and purpose clearly embolden them to take on the academic challenges that brought them here.
The twin phenomena that make Kildonan unique are the current program expansions on the one hand and the long-standing school philosophy of self-awareness and confidence-building on the other. Among the many changes at Kildonan in recent years are the matching of new technologies to our singular curriculum, including the use of iPads as a teaching tool, and the widespread use of SmartBoards; our massive expansion in assistive technology instruction and software cultivation; the formal development of our students' self-awareness and confidence through one of the country's only high school-level chapters of Eye-to-Eye; the creation of our Visual Learning Center and its extension to tutoring and classroom curricula; and the introduction of the constructivist element in our classroom instruction (a development that extends the individualized nature of our tutoring to our subject matter courses). What has stayed the same?: the core elements that have made the school both a model for programs elsewhere and, paradoxically, too unique to copy effectively - a devoted and creative teaching faculty; daily one-to-one, multi-sensory language training for every student; extensive training and mentoring for every tutor by Fellows in the Orton-Gillingham Academy; creative, even artistic, applications of the multi-sensory approach by tutors responding to the particular needs of each student; small-group, technology-mindful teaching in subject matter courses toward a New York State high school diploma; and rigorous, comprehensive, sequential programs in equestrianism and skiing/snowboarding. The enduring success of these long-standing components, combined with both the school's currently burgeoning innovations and striking renovations to the boys' dorm, schoolhouse, and lower campus, all make this a thrilling time to experience Kildonan.