BY DANNY MOGLE // PHOTO BY CHELSEA PURGAHN // July/August 2017
In many ways, Bridgemark Center is just like any school. Children study a traditional curriculum, they move during the day from class to class and take advantage of opportunities to explore their creative sides.
What makes the private school in Tyler, Texas, different is that all the students have a disability that makes it difficult for them to learn some subjects.
Those with dyslexia have trouble comprehending reading, those with dysgraphia have trouble writing and those with dyscalculia struggle with math. Still others have difficulty paying attention for long periods or making sense of verbal instructions.
Based on a diagnosis of a learning disability and academic testing to assess skills, the staff creates a strategy that allows each student to learn at different speeds and in different ways.
Bridgemark opened in 2014 as a ministry of Calvary Baptist Church with a mission to help its special-needs students by “empowering their minds and rekindling their love for learning through effective, research-based instruction in a nurturing, faith-based community.”
Jim and Jennifer Clark of Tyler became concerned when in the second grade their daughter, Campbell, began skipping words and adding words to sentences when she read.
“We began to suspect dyslexia,” says Jennifer, who homeschooled her children and watched as Campbell became increasingly frustrated.
Testing confirmed that Campbell in fact had the learning disability.
“The confirmation was a relief because it then allowed us to ensure that she was receiving the help she needed to feel successful, confident and learn the way God created her mind to work,” Jennifer says.
Jennifer began giving Campbell more time to complete assignments and changed the way she taught her daughter.
“At the end of her third-grade year, we began feeling that Campbell needed something I, as her parent, could not offer her. I have a bachelor’s degree but I am not trained in (teaching a student with) dyslexia.”
The Clarks learned about Bridgemark through Calvary Baptist Church, which also supported the homeschool co-op in which they were involved. They enrolled Campbell at the beginning of her fourth-grade year.
“It was a good choice for our family because it (the school) was founded on principles that aligned with how we wanted our children to be raised; they specialized in dyslexia; and it was an environment that was safe and warm,” Jennifer says.
The Clarks liked what was happening at the school
“The learning environment is one of embracing the difficulties, working together as a team and empowering each child to reach their maximum potential, which may be different from someone else in class,” Jennifer says.
Bridgemark helped Campbell understand what dyslexia is all about.
“She now sees dyslexia as how God made her and isn’t ashamed that her brain sees things differently than others,” Jennifer says.
Campbell is no longer frustrated, says her mother. “Her self-confidence has greatly improved and she has been given the opportunity to see the reality that everyone struggles with something.”
Jennifer credits Bridgemark with equipping Campbell with coping skills she will use the rest of her life. “Even though she will always have dyslexia, she has been empowered to … utilize the learning strategies that she will always need.”