Imagine yourself as a recent college Mark Fairbank Presidential Teacher of Excellencegraduate, brand-new in the workforce, rejected from your first job interview – because you are dyslexic. Mark Fairbank asked to be able to use a dictionary during his work interview, but he was denied. Now imagine, years later, receiving an award from President Obama for Teaching Excellence in Math and Science. How is this possible?

Mark Fairbank, who now oversees the Science Department at Paso Robles High School in California, experienced both scenarios, and
he joined us last week to tell his incredible story.

In the 3rd grade, Mark’s school recommend his being held back a grade, but his parents resisted, had him test, and identified his dyslexia.  With support from his parents and creative instructors,, he went on to graduate from both high school and college eventually landing a job at the same school at which he works today.

Mark discovered that, rather than impeding his ability to educate, his dyslexia helped and gave him insight into ways of teaching different students.  Looking back on his own elementary school experience, he notes that the same classroom methods used by his former teachers, such as stories, hands-on activities, and active involvement, could be universally used to inspire and engage his own students. Mark used his Dyslexic Advantage to completely redo the way his students thought of science. Students were directly involved in his experiments; instead of having them watch passively, he engaged them in activities and had them add creative elaborations.

“I have found that about sixty percent of what a student says is through their body language, thirty percent through how they say what they are saying, and ten percent based upon the words used. Listening to the students allows them to expand what they learn as they are describing.  The learning becomes clearer through the sharing process.  The classroom environment through which I facilitate learning is one where students are allowed to inquire while expressing excitement and enthusiasm.  I provide exploratory learning experiences which are based upon an upward spiral of learning concepts and themes in science as well as learning modalities.” – Mark Fairbank

Such out-of-the-box thinking led Mark to Washington DC to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science. He credits his dyslexia for his strengths in education, and he encourages other dyslexic individuals to utilize their giftings, as well.

This blog post was written by Christina Gaebel, our wonderful intern at Dyslexic Advantage. Thanks, Christina!