The Bridge Academy is only Orton-Gillingham accredited school in New Jersey

Bridge Academy teacher Ann Marie Harshaw works with a student.PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRIDGE ACADEMY
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Bridge Academy teacher Ann Marie Harshaw works with a student.PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BRIDGE ACADEMY

Recent research suggests nearly 20% of the population (1 in 5) have a language-based learning disability, with dyslexia being most common, according to information provided by The Bridge Academy in Lawrence Township.

In 2003, The Bridge Academy was established to provide comprehensive Orton-Gillingham instruction and teacher training. It is one of only 18 Orton-Gillingham accredited schools in the United States, and the only one in New Jersey.

This multi-sensory teaching approach, coupled with a low student-teacher ratio of 3:1, helps ensure all students’ learning potential are maximized, according to the statement. The curriculum parallels the one taught in New Jersey’s public schools, but small classes, hands-on techniques, and directly taught organization and study skills help ensure students succeed.

“We provide the right environment where students can relax, feel comfortable to take academic risks, and learn. We celebrate each child’s talents, successes, and build upon a strong community that includes students, parents, family members, child study team members, and professionals,” Director of Education Susan Morris said in the statement.

Orton-Gillingham is an approach to teaching reading and spelling, not a method, program, system or technique, according to the statement. The approach is multi-sensory: students are taught specific skills using sight, sound, touch and movement. This helps activate the brain and aids in retention.

In addition, The Bridge Academy also places a high emphasis on professional development; all Bridge teachers attend regular training, according to the statement. The training is led by staff member Ann Marie Harshaw, an Orton-Gillingham Fellow. Nationally, there are 148 Orton-Gillingham Fellows.

Harshaw has been teaching students with dyslexia for over 25 years, 12 of them at The Bridge Academy.

“Over the years, I continued my training in Orton-Gillingham through all levels of certification as I have seen the value of using the method. I have worked with students who came to our school after years of failure and were just ‘stuck.’ They had very low self-esteem because of their reading and writing difficulties and did not think they would ever learn how to read. But, they did and they do because our staff uses a methodology that works for them,” she said in the statement.

In addition to its own teachers, the school offers a summer teacher training program and is an accredited teacher-training program by the Orton-Gillingham educators and practitioners. This year’s summer training program was offered both in-person and virtually. The program provides training to teachers from greater Central New Jersey, nationally, and even internationally – with a student from Dubai attending this summer.

For more information about The Bridge Academy, call 609-844-0770 or visit www.bridgeacademynj.org.