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Between the lines, not through the cracks

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Unique teacher makes reading possible for many whose hope had waned

By Gene Sears

Nothing in life is as critical to success as the ability to read.
    From petroglyphs to the Internet, progress as a society is measured in our ability to communicate and record details, the basis of civilization.
    Fully aware of the importance, Fort Lupton’s Ann Porcelly teaches the skills required, succeeding where all other methods fail. It’s a genuine labor of love for the veteran educator who simply won’t give up until her students read, read well, and love it. 
    Starting her career at the innovative Karafin School in Mount Kisco, N.Y., Porcelly spent the next 21 years working with special needs children with learning and behavior problems.

    “I noticed that their biggest problem was they couldn’t read,” Porcelly said.  “I used to give a play every year, and I found that these children who couldn’t read, or found it very difficult, just loved being in the play. They did anything to learn their parts, because they wanted to be in the play. That is what started me getting interested in reading.”
    Going back to school, Porcelly earned a second master’s degree, focusing on special education, a newly emerging field of study at the time.
    “Then I started teaching reading to my students, even though I wasn’t a reading teacher, because I was so interested in it,” Porcelly said, enjoying success during the remainder of her tenure at Karafin.
    Moving to the New Milford, Conn., public schools system, Porcelly took a special education position in the middle school.
    “Then I went back to school, and then I had a really interesting job, because by now I had three master’s degrees; art, special education and another as a reading consultant.” 
    New Milford is where Porcelly’s passion for reading took off, due to necessity for the welfare of her students.
    “When I started this school, I found that the reading teachers could not teach the special ed children how to read,” Porcelly said. “They had success with regular children, but not with my children.” 
    Hired as a special education reading specialist, Porcelly came face-to-face with the reality of special needs kids under the tutelage of mainstream educators. Case managing 50 children at a time, Porcelly found herself dismayed with the difficulty the children suffered with reading, and the challenges the reading teachers faced educating them.  She became the solution.
    “My job was to teach any child that came from the four grammar schools into our school that couldn’t read, or having a hard time reading, and send them to high school reading,” Porcelly said. “I never lost one. It was a wonderful job.”
    After retiring from the district, Porcelly moved to California to be near her son, working a private practice teaching children to read over the course of a decade.
    “It was quite large,” Porcelly said. “I taught so many children there.”
    Over the decades, Porcelly estimates the children she has helped numbers in the thousands
    “I don’t know what to tell you about myself,’ Porcelly said, when asked to describe what motivates her desire to instill knowledge. “I love to teach. I’m very successful at it. I am very persistent. I never let a child get past.”
    Through the years, Porcelly developed a unique method of reading instruction that has proven failsafe, working where traditional methods fail. Distilled down to the basic elements, Porcelly starts her students off phonetically, progressing through vowel sounds to consonants, culminating in progressively more difficult consonant pairings.
    “I don’t teach anything with a book, not right away,” Porcelly said. “Everyone starts at the same level, whether they are seven years old or 15. I don’t even care what level they are at, if they are having a problem, they start here.”
    “This is the only way to prepare them for what I’m going to do,” Porcelly added.    “Also, you need their confidence. It’s not so bad with a second-grader, but a seventh-grader is totally discouraged, doesn’t want to learn, can’t do anything because he doesn’t know how to read, and is very suspicious of me at first.”
    Putting those suspicions to rest, Porcelly builds confidence along with skills, convincing the child that she simply doesn’t give up, not on anyone.
    “I tell them, “I’m not going to let you go without reading. I will do everything in my power. And I will never give you something that is hard for you to do.” Porcelly aid.  But in order for me to find out where they really and truly are, I have to start at the beginning.”
     Tools in hand, her students quickly progress through a series of auditory, visual and tactile lessons developed by Porcelly, all the while under her trained eye. Adjusting as needed, Porcelly’s lesson plan really does ‘leave no child behind,’ in the pursuit of literacy. Closer to home, one of her more recent success stories is a neighbor boy, one that needed some emergency help.
    “He was very discouraged,” Porcelly explained. “When a child can’t read, a child can’t succeed at anything. Everything that they have before them is based on reading. In two months, I took him from a third grade level to an, eighth grade level. He is confident, and just loves to read.”
    Porcelly also tests for ability and achievement, something the schools don’t have the time or the money for these days. She is adept at interpreting the results and generating the report, the most critical component of the process. Best of all, she says she can perform the tasks for roughly ten percent of what an educational institution would charge, as a benefit of her private practice.
    “They very rarely teach like this in school,” Porcelly said. “They don’t have time to do this. I did it in my school because I figured it out. My thoughts were, “Why can’t they learn how to read?” I just worked very hard until I found out why. Once I found out why, I came up with these methods.”
    Currently accepting students at the elementary, middle and high school levels, Porcelly may be reached via telephone at 303-990-3630, or email at teacherannie@centurylink.net

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at
gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com