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Academy Fellow in Hawaii Leads the States in School Change

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Ronald Yoshimoto, former Academy board member and Vice President, is the first staff person hired by a State Department of Education in the U.S. to train teachers using standards set by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. In his position with the state of Hawaii, Ron has demonstrated leadership, advocacy, and high standards of teacher training for thousands of special and regular education teachers in the elementary and middle schools. The major goal of the training is to realize preventive as well as remedial instruction in reading, writing and math within the public schools throughout Hawaii. All training costs for the training, materials, and supplies needed for the classes are subsidized by the state.

Ron was hired originally by Patricia Nichols from the Department of Education, State of Hawaii Special Education Literacy Department four and one half years ago to teach an Orton­-Gillingham Approach/Multisensory Structured Language (OG/MSL) course. Ron recounts the project's journey: “The special education teachers in schools serving underprivileged students were the first to truly embrace OG/MSL. Subsequently, other special education teachers started to request training. It did not take very long before general education teachers also were requesting OG/MSL training as they began to see the successes of their special needs students. In the third year, more training requests were coming from general education teachers. At this juncture, I then focused on training K-2 general education teachers as well as special education teachers. After four years, nearly 4,000 teachers in the state of Hawaii have been trained in OG/ MSL."

The highlights of Ron's work are numerous. He has trained English Language Learner (ELL) teachers as well as special education preschool teachers in OG/MSL, and both groups have seen measurable results with their students. Additionally, Ron has trained a significant number of Department of Education speech and language pathologists, resource teachers, curriculum coordinators and school principals.

There are several elementary public schools in Hawaii where all of the staff, from preschool to 6th grade, has been trained in OG/MSL. To ensure consistency as well as support for the teachers, educational assistants and part-time teachers also have been trained. Several schools have created OG/MSL coaching positions to support the teachers. Increasingly, the K-2 teachers from a number of public schools are using OG/ MSL in their general education classrooms.

Interest in training has spread from school to school as reading scores improve. Recently, teachers implemented a Response to Intervention (RTI) program with great success with kindergarten children in a public school where OG/MSL was used in Tier I, Tier 2, and Tier 3 interventions with progress monitoring guiding the instruction. In the general education classroom setting, OG/MSL has been integrated with other programs such as Open Court, Reading Mastery, and Trophies.

The Special Education (SPED) Literacy unit began a project at a public high school with high-risk students whereby the resource teachers worked with juniors reading at the second grade level. They were tutored twice a week for four months and the students made three years growth in reading skills. Further, OG/MSL is being implemented with children with autism and with students with more severe learning needs.

To support the OG/MSL Learning Community, Patricia Nichols, Cynthia Mew and Ron Yoshimoto have coordinated three MSL conferences to enhance their professional development in this area. Great emphasis was placed on public school teachers making presentations to their peers and sharing their successes. Academy fellows Marcia Mann, Helaine Schupack, Diana King, Wilson Anderson, and professionals from Canada-Corey Zylstra, Marilyn Wardrop, and Gavin Reid-have presented at the conferences.

Teachers are given the opportunity to seek certification through the Academy, with fees paid by the state. Teachers who have taken the OG/MSL training rave about the courses. Recent comments included: "Every elementary and special education teacher should receive this training. It provides the most comprehensive and detailed approach to teaching language arts skills I have ever seen. The handouts are marvelous. I have never received such useful, ready-to-use material. Thank you!"

Congratulations to the Hawaii Department of Education and a million thanks to Ron Yoshimoto for leading the nation in meeting the literacy skills of children with dyslexia and other learning needs within public school settings. We look forward to hearing more about the progress in your schools.

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