My Story

The Early Years

I was born and raised in Raleigh, N.C., and graduated from Sanderson High School in 1990. As a child, I loved school and came from a long line of educators: my mother, two of my aunts, my grandmother, and even my grandfather was a principal and Superintendent. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. So, I attended Appalachian State University to earn a B.S. in Elementary Education. Upon graduating in 1994, I considered getting a Masters in Reading or Administration but forwent more education for the opportunity to serve on the mission field. For twelve months I lived in Samara, Russia working in the public schools with administrators and teachers developing a Biblical character curriculum. After I returned to the states in July 1996, I got married in October of that year and declined several teaching jobs. Instead, I took a position managing an office with Crown Ministries (kind of like Dave Ramsey). After our first child was born in 1998, I knew I wanted to be a “fulltime mama!” The babies kept coming in 2000, 2003 and 2007. By then I had resolved to homeschool and felt comfortable since I had a degree in Elem. Education.  Little did I know that homeschooling would lead me back to my original desire for further training in Reading Education.


By this point, we had moved from Raleigh, N.C. to eastern N.C. to start a new church and my husband was very supportive of homeschooling. Even though my background was in education, I learned more about education and the learning process by homeschooling than I ever did in the college classroom. I taught all subjects and all grade levels as I educated our children and “re-educated” myself. The first year I did not know what to buy for curriculum so I wrote my own (TODAY’S PSA: DO NOT DO THIS). The next year I used My Father’s World (a unit study type of all-inclusive curriculum) and loved it! When baby #4 came, I was the primary caregiver for my father who was in poor health. We did Bob Jones on DVD and that worked well. We returned to My Father’s World but soon thereafter decided to join a Classical Christian co-op called Classical Conversations. I served as a tutor for 2 years and as the Director for one year. I also traveled throughout N.C. speaking at conferences to train parents in the classical model of education on behalf of Classical Conversations, as well as trained tutors for the role they play in the organization.

 Now It’s Getting Interesting

I was homeschooling all of our children and becoming very frustrated that the methods and reading curricula were not giving us any results with my third child. I was sure the problem was me. I bought different curriculum and tried again. I used Marie Ripple’s All About Reading and it was good, but not enough. As homeschoolers, we are required to do End of Year testing. I always used a Woodcock-Johnson administrator and was pleased with the experience. However, after assessing child #3 the testing administrator said to me, “She’s 9 and not reading but it’s ok. She’ll figure it out eventually. Just read to her more.” Soon thereafter, I was helping organize speakers for the area homeschool support group and someone had suggested a Reading Specialist as a potential speaker. After talking extensively on the phone, I asked the Reading Specialist to meet with my 9-year daughter and give some feedback. She willingly agreed and after 4 sessions, the tutor admitted she had never worked with a student like mine. She was bright, articulate, creative, had beautiful handwriting, but could not segment and blend short vowel words. She was dyslexic. The tutor recommended a Ph.D. in the area who could do a formal assessment.

Now…it’s getting personal

With a degree in Elementary Education, I was outraged that NO ONE had ever mentioned any definition of learning disabilities like dyslexia much less, given me ANY training in how to work with these students. I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start or what to do next. But like most homeschool moms, I took the responsibility to get the help she needed. I tried using Susan Barton’s material, The Barton Reading System, but I realized it was above the level of experience and training that I had and we needed someone who knew more than I did. By now at age 9, my daughter was becoming very frustrated and our relationship was very strained when I tried to work with her. She felt defeated with any kind of school work and our days were becoming more and more negative. My frustration led me to read every book I could get my hands on. I talked to every person who had experience in this field and attended conferences to learn as much as I could. It became a new hobby. I had a million questions (like “Dyslexia-What is it? What is the brain doing/not doing? How do you get it? How do we fix it?) and I wanted answers.


Getting Help

The Ph. D. evaluated her and explained the results to me. She recommended another tutor in the area who had training in Orton Gillingham. She assessed Mollie and suggested tutoring sessions three times a week for 2.5 to 3 years to get her reading on grade level. At $1 per minute this was a huge commitment. I asked if Mollie could come twice a week and if I could sit in the sessions, observe, take notes, and work with Mollie at home the other 2-3 days a week. Using Barbara Wilson’s material, Fundations, I got a front-row seat watching an experienced tutor use multisensory methods with lots of repetition. In hindsight, I cannot believe she let me do this! As an OG tutor myself now, I don’t think I would allow this! With this support and instruction, Mollie went from being a non-reader at age 9 to reading at a 2nd-grade reading level 2 years later. We had made progress but not enough. It was like watching paint dry- very slow and painful at times. The progress an average student makes in a year equates to six months of progress for a dyslexic student. We had to be patient and not give up.

In the summer of 2015, our family to moved to Charlotte N.C. for a year and Mollie attended Lindamood Bell for about 12 weeks (200 hours of instruction). Again, she made some gains but not enough.

After a year in Charlotte, we moved to Topeka, Kansas. At that time, it was necessary for me to go to work and a small private school offered me a position teaching first and second grade. I was thrilled with the opportunity, knowing I could use my love of teaching and return to the classroom. This also meant all the Kerns kids would go to school. With a rising senior, Junior, 8th grader and 3rd grader, this was a traumatic move. I knew Mollie (the rising 8th grader) would not do well in a traditional school and would need an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) with accommodations to meet her learning needs.

 Calling in the Big Guns

After scouring the internet looking for OG tutors in Topeka, I was very disappointed that there were none. Eventually, I found the Kansas-Missouri International Dyslexia Association. Their website had a resource page and it listed Horizon Academy as a school for students for learning disabilities, but it was in Kansas City (60 miles from Topeka) and a CHUNK of money. I had no idea how that would work, but I knew that was where Mollie needed to be. Through much prayer and consideration, we decided this was the place for Mollie. Honestly, all I can say is God made it happen: the transportation, the money, the schedule. It was a huge sacrifice and commitment, but God gets all the glory. She got OG tutoring daily, she had an IEP immediately, she was in a math class with two other students on her level and most of her teachers had Master’s degrees in Special Ed. Teaching Middle School kids with learning disabilities is HARD- these people are saints! Mollie attended Horizon Academy for 8th and 9th grades with the hopes of transitioning to a school in Topeka to finish high school, which is exactly what she did. I am thrilled to say that she is a rising Senior and is doing well. She has an IEP and accommodations and all her teachers are very supportive at a small, private school. She still wants to be like everyone else and hide the fact that she needs extra help, but I think we all do, right?

Back to Me

Meanwhile, in my classroom, I was finding other dyslexic students who needed similar instruction. Having worked with Mollie and now able to identify typical dyslexic traits, I knew what to look for. Some had been assessed by the public school and did not qualify for services because Kansas schools do not recognize dyslexia as a learning disability at that time (prior to the October, 2019 Legislation). Some were struggling and falling through the cracks. I knew I could meet their needs, especially as first graders. Early intervention is key. The older the student gets, the wider the gap and the HARDER it is to close it. So in June 2017, I enrolled in the Academy of Orton Gillingham Classroom Educator training (60 hours) with Karen Leopold hosted at Horizon Academy. There were required readings and summaries to write at the end. I decided to do my practicum (supervised by Trudy Odle, another AOGPE Fellow) with 100 hours of one-on-one instruction with the same student. Of course, this took 2 years to complete but very worthwhile. I began to implement multi-sensory methods in my first-grade classroom immediately. Our school had been using Saxon Phonics (which I taught the first year I was there) but after my training, I wrote my own curriculum (scope and sequence) based on Karen Leopold’s book. I know, I know. I told you never to do that. And, well, I’m going to say it again, DO NOT DO THAT! It is a lot of work and why re-invent the wheel when someone else has already done it for you! There are A LOT of good curricula out there to use in the classroom. After my own extensive research, my first choice is Wilson- Fundations, Just Words, or WRS. I also really like Zaner Blozer’s Super Kids. There are many others. As an OG tutor, I still write lesson plans from scratch for each of my private students because OG is direct, explicit and diagnostic. It is custom-made for a student in a one-on-one setting and that of course is where the most gains are made. I use a wide variety of resources and am always adding to my repertoire of engaging activities. The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. I trust this site will be a great support and encouragement to you, regardless of who you are and how dyslexia affects your or your child.