From:  The Shreveport Times
February 29, 2012

Meadowview Elementary wanted to thank Denise Bankston, founder of A-Kids-Choice Foundation, for donating 10 iPads and $20,000 to the school.

So it did just that last week at a celebration assembly during which Bankston was presented with flowers, both handmade and fresh, handmade signs and lots of hugs.

Denise Bankston receives hugs from students at Meadowview Elementary School. The school held a celebration assembly last week to thank Bankston for donating 10 ipads and $20,000 to the school.

“I’m just overwhelmed with all the excitement this morning,” she told students, faculty member and visitors in the crowded gymnasium.  “Dr. Barrett (Meadowview Elementary principal), you did an awesome job brining this assembly together.”

A-Kids-Choice Foundation is a nonprofit founded by Bankston, who moved to Boston from Bossier City more than 10 years ago so her dyslexic son, J.T., could attend Landmark School, which specializes in helping children with language-based disabilities such as dyslexia.

J.T., who sat beside his mother on stage during the recent assembly, went on to graduate with honors from New England College.

Bankston’s husband, Mike, also was at the assembly and told the crowd how passionate his wife is about helping children.  “Not just our son, but all of you.  You are our future leaders and we invest in you.”

Besides the iPads and money Denise Bankston donated to the school, at the assembly she gave keepsake necklaces to the more than 600 students, educators and employees.

“The money spent on each necklace will feed 25 cups of food to a hungry child in America,” she said.

Also among those in attendance were Bossier public schools Superintendent D.C. Machen, who thanked Bankston for her “outstanding investment in our students,” and District 8 Bossier School Board member Kenneth Wiggins, who had everyone laughing when he showed his appreciation for Bankston with a song and poem.  “Roses are red, violets are still blue, Meadowview says we love you.”

It was announced during the presentation that eight Meadowview Elementary Teachers have been selected to attend Landmark School for a week this summer.  All expenses will be paid by A-Kids-Choice Foundation.

Those teachers are Rachel Schillage, Shawn Fields, Stacy Croft, Debbie Vanderpool, MichaelAnne Behrens, Julie Templin, Leslie Hadwin and Kelli Haltom.

Julie Templin, MichaelAnn Behrens, Leslie Hadwin, Shawn Fields, Stacy Croft, Kelli Haltom, Rachel Schillage, and Debbie Vanderpool

Last year, a group of Bossier Parish teachers spent a week at Landmark School as part of its outreach course A Language-Based Classroom to learn techniques and strategies for students with language-based disabilities.

One of those was Meadowview Elementary teacher Ashley Grantham.  “I learned what a true language-based classroom is like.  “It totally changed my outlook on teaching because of the dynamic approaches they take toward reading and writing,” she said.  “The strategies are things you can do with any student in your room.  It’s beneficial for all students all the way around.”

Grantham said one of the methods she learned is how to be more organized.  “A highly structured environment supports those students with language-based disabilities.  My students are more organized because I’m more organized.”

According to the website, dyslexia is caused by a difference in brain structure at birth and often is hereditary.  Dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence level; in fact, most dyslexics have above-average IQs.  But because incoming or outgoing information gets scrambled as it travels between the senses and the brain, it can impair a dyslexic’s ability to learn, retain and express information.

Legacy Elementary School teacher Kim Slack also attended Landmark School last year.  “We know we are making a difference and are even more excited about the future.”

By Barbara Widner