Education Spotlight: Greengate School

As part of our Education posts each Tuesday, RCM is launching a monthly “School Spotlight” to help our readers learn more about private and magnet schools in Madison County. We will continue to highlight the happenings at area public schools, and are excited to expand our education coverage to include more options for local students and their parents.

Rocket City Mom recently interviewed Leslie Bruton, Community Relations Director at Greengate, to learn more about this unique school. Located in the renovated and historic Lincoln Mill, Greengate acommodates students in Kindergarten – 8th Grade, and is a nonsectarian, independent school which welcomes and respects children of all religions and ethnic backgrounds.

Name of School: Greengate School
School Phone: (256) 551-4439
School Location: 1300 Meridian Street, Suite 2200, Huntsville, AL 35801
Greengate Facebook Page

Teacher/Student Ratio: Small classes (averaging 4 students to 1 teacher) allow teachers to know students as individuals support their needs, nurture their strengths and pace their instruction appropriately. In this way, students can progress as quickly as they are able or as slowly as they need.

School mission: To educate and support bright children who have specific learning differences in reading, spelling or writing so that they may realize their full potential.

What is your school’s predominant educational philosophy?
At Greengate, teachers actively engage children’s learning through all of their senses. Sight, sound, touch, and taste and smell all have a role to play in the effective acquisition of new skills and concepts and in review. Orton-Gillingham structured, multi-sensory language teaching methods form the basis of daily, individualized tutoring and language lessons for beginning students. Research shows that reading instruction that is explicit, systematic, sequential and cumulative benefits children with reading difficulties (dyslexia). Each day, an hour of individualized tutoring for all students provides opportunity for crucial practice and review. An active, energetic learning environment fosters discovery, exploration, understanding, and the opportunity for each student to show what he or she can accomplish.

Students in a Greengate math class use magnetic signs to solve problems.

What sets your school apart from other area programs?
Greengate School is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and is one of only twelve schools in the nation with an instructional program accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.

The science, math, and social studies classes at Greengate rely less on textbooks and involve more hands-on, experimental and project-oriented work than traditional schools. In all subjects at Greengate, the emphasis is placed on concepts and ideas rather than on memorization. Greengate students also attend art classes 2-3 times each week, allowing them to complete more detailed, involved projects than those taught in a traditional school art program. They are exposed to various art mediums and techniques as early as 1st grade. The art program takes a holistic approach as each work of art is completed based on the goals and capabilities of the artist, rather than following a rigid art curriculum. We believe that an art class is a great place for these bright, creative students to use hands on, multisensory approaches to express themselves in each work of art they create.

Why establish a school specifically for children with learning differences?
Unfortunately, as children with leaning differences (LD) struggle to succeed, many deal daily with verbal abuse and humiliation from their peers. Even though many of these kids are gifted, students with learning differences can become disheartened, unsure of who they are and what they can do. Whether it’s their inability to complete class work at the same pace as others, the embarrassment they feel when asked to read aloud, or the stigma of being shuffled off to special classes, their self-esteem suffers and it becomes increasingly difficult to motivate them.

The students at Greengate School benefit from meeting, working, and befriending other talented and creative dyslexic children. They will also have the opportunity to hear guest speakers who have struggled with dyslexia and emerged successful in their careers and lives. Seeing that they are not alone in their disability and that others have the same problems, and are smart and successful, will lead to more a positive self-image. Our students benefit from the direct attention of teachers and tutors who have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, a method created especially for teaching dyslexic students.

During his language tutoring lesson, a student uses multi-sensory techniques to help him remember a spelling rule.

What extracurricular opportunities exist for your students?
We have an active Student Council and a Lego Robotics Club. Our middle school students (Grades 6th-8th) participate in the Greengate Social Club, a club established to teach the value of service in our community as well as establish better friendships among students.

What advice do you have for parents looking for a school for their child(ren)?
It’s very important to find a school that is “the right fit” for your child. Most schools in our community allow a child to come visit for a day to make sure the child feels comfortable in that specific classroom setting, gets along with their other children in the room, etc. If you are seriously considering enrollment in any school, I would recommend setting up a meeting with a school administrator to discuss this option. If you are planning for enrollment in this coming school year, and meeting the other children would not be an option, we recommend take your child to tour the school to introduce them to this new environment and ward off any apprehension they may be feeling.

Also, please do not hesitate to contact Greengate if your child is struggling with reading, spelling, or writing and you believe your child may have dyslexia or a related learning difference. For more information on the signs of dyslexia, information about testing, etc., please visit our website. We understand how difficult it can be for a family to deal with a bright child struggling in school and we know that early intervention is key to helping them overcome this struggle and begin to excel!

Describe your admissions process.
Any child considering enrollment at Greengate must be formally tested and have a reading disability as their primary diagnosis. We offer these tests for any child (even those not seeking enrollment). Please call the school to set up a testing appointment and/or request an admissions packet. We hold an Open House at 9:00AM on the last Thursday of each month.

At Greengate, we strive to really make a difference in the lives of our students. Our tests scores prove that we are making a difference. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Some students have advanced by 2 or 3 grade levels in reading fluency, comprehension, math and/or spelling in a single year. All in all, a pretty good measure, but perhaps the greatest results are seen in a child’s attitude, confidence, and self-esteem.