My Mission, Our Journey!
Our story begins many years ago; my mission, our journey, our sacrifices, and JT’s success!! Through the last 12 years of our lives I have been on a mission, from the beginning to the present, my Heavenly Father has been guiding me all the way; it began when JT was in the 3rd grade and we discovered he had learning differences, dysgraphia and dyslexia. Writing on paper wasn’t easy, getting that one word down took him a very long time to complete, reading wasn’t easy either, but math, he excelled 3 grades ahead! Also, sports was another avenue that he was good in, basketball and baseball, which he played in Dixie, left and right handed.
During our years at Apollo, one of his teachers, Mrs. Pool at that time (who is now Principal of Curtis Elementary) had taken a great interest in JT; she was his teacher and his tutor. We could not have had a better person, teacher, mentor, etc. than our Mrs. Pool. She kept up with JT throughout his entire education, as she helped me to understand some of his learning differences.
I became a strong advocate for my son; I formed a Yahoo Group called, “A Kid’s Choice” for parents of children with Learning Disabilities. We supported each other and learned allot about the laws concerning our children’s rights. I had close to 1,000 parents, teachers and some doctors and attorneys on this site.
After Apollo, I enrolled JT in Evangel; they had a smaller classroom, which I thought would help with his studies, JT stayed here 2 years, 6th & 7th grade. When 8th grade rolled around JT asked me if he could go to Greenacres Middle School; I have to share, I was a bit concerned, but JT shared with me, that he was ready to get back into the Public Schools and he felt he could do his best with homework and handle his academics just fine, plus, he wanted to play basketball. JT had been in the paper numerous times for this sport and he loved basketball and the competition…He is such a confident young man, very social, had many friends, I couldn’t say no. I had to allow JT this choice!
The first month of Greenacres, was already starting to get difficult for him, more homework, staying up till 12:00 and 1:00am trying to write a sentence!! He was truly working hard to accomplish his studies. He maintain A’s, B’s and C’s, with lots of hard and very difficult work for a child with Dyslexia and Dygraphia, plus I was tutoring him in the evenings till he finally went to bed, Mrs. Pool would tutor him during the day after school, not much time for sports, however, he would go to practice every day.
Mrs. Pool was studying for her Master’s Degree and her time started slipping away; (She still stayed in touch with JT) I placed an ad in the newspaper for an experience Sp. Ed Teacher with Dyselxia/Dysgraphia, Mrs. Stuckey from Virginia answered my ad. She was sent to us by Faith. Her and her husband had just moved to town, he was finishing up his Internship with a Judge here locally; therefore, their stay was only 9 months.
Mrs. Stuckey worked with JT every single day for nearly 4 hours at a time or longer, we had already started sacrificing allot for him. The homework was unreal for JT to keep up with, but he pushed himself with determination and having her help. I was busy with conferences at school to try modify his work for his classrooms and at home, etc.
After the second month of Greenacres, Mrs. Stuckey asked me if I had thought about Homeschooling JT, I had, but wasn’t sure, she was suggesting if things didn’t get easier for him that maybe I should consider homeschooling. Not long afterwards, JT wanted to talk with me about his studies; He shared with me, he could no longer keep up with his homework and that Basketball wasn’t important anymore. After quitting the sports, JT still struggled in school and homework.
I continued to have meetings at school, the last meeting I had, Mrs. Feaster had some teachers from Airline High School attend, and I had Mrs. Stuckey, another Sp. Ed Teacher who was an advocate for us. This meeting did not go well. Two of those teachers from AHS, told me, “JT will not amount to anything if he can not do his work alone, that she thought he had too much help and couldn’t “think” on his own!” Another teacher told me he would never graduate!
We went back to my home and discussed our next plan, which was to pull JT out of the Public School System and Home school. JT felt a huge relief and so did Mrs. Stuckey and myself. From this point on I went on a mission to find a school that could educate my son. I sent his test reports to over 75 private schools in the South, from Louisiana, Texas, MS, AL, TN. I received about 30 replies from the mail and about 40 calls; with every single one saying NO, we were turned down by every school in the South because they did not know if how they taught their students would help JT’s Learning Differences, even though he had an above IQ.
I continued on as a Mother determined not to give up on her child, I started searching on the internet for schools with Learning Differences and found a few that looked interesting. I went all over the US in search of a school for him. I found one in Denver CO, “The Denver Academy” which I thought we would be attending. I wasn’t sure of this school, didn’t feel all the way right, but it was at that time our only hope!
Mrs. Stuckey stood by us, continued to work at home with JT and was right there during all our struggles, she then suggested that I look up the Northeast Coast. I had never been anywhere other than in Louisiana and didn’t consider the Northeast. Beth got busy and located several schools for me to check out and I did. I sent JT’s scores to about 20 schools, one of them, “The Landmark School” outside of Boston on the North Shore.
The Landmark School called our home for an interview with JT and our family; we made that appointment and flew to Boston the next week. I cannot put into enough words the excitement we had on this journey to the North Shore of Boston. The day JT was interviewed at Landmark was the day I knew in my heart this was the school for my son!! They gave us the confidence we needed to know JT would get an excellent education, especially with 93% of Landmark’s graduates going on to graduate from College, that alone, gave me tons of hope, where in the South the odds where against him.
Today, JT graduated in 2005 from The Landmark School, went on to graduate with a B.A. Degree from New England College in 2010! We are today on another journey to educate our teachers in Bossier Parish by giving 8 selected teachers from one of Bossier Parish’s District schools, the opportunity to attend The Landmark Schools Outreach Summer Program and bring back to the South their experience to share with other fellow educators in order to spread those skills and tools across our public schools to help our students with or without Learning Differences. The Landmark’s Schools ability to reach out to other districts is amazing what this school shares to help all students achieve. I am very proud to share; I have jumped on the bandwagon to bring much needed information back to our Bossier Parish Districts.
Denise Bankston, Founder,
A Kid’s Choice Foundation