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Teacher up for national award for special-ed work

By Jesse Yeatman
The Enterprise
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Every school day, Anne Fogel draws on more than three decades of teaching experience to find what she calls that "light-bulb moment" in her students.

Fogel, a special education teacher at Spring Ridge Middle School, south of Lexington Park, works with students one-on-one or in small groups to help them learn to read.

"That's my strength and what I enjoy the most, working with students on reading interventions," she said. "You may not see anything for a while, but all of a sudden when that light bulb goes on, boy, that's exciting."

Fogel is the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland's nominee for the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year award, a national honor given by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, a network of state and local groups that advocate on behalf of and offer support to people with learning disabilities and their families.

For more than 30 years, she has taught special education students in regular classrooms, in special-needs classrooms and at their homes. Most of them have had learning disabilities, though she has also worked with students who have intellectual disabilities, autism, hearing and vision problems, and physical handicaps.

"Kids come with a lot of baggage," Fogel said. "You have to home in on what this kid's motivation is."

Most need multi-sensory techniques, so she will have them touch an object or use music to associate letters and sounds with words.

"They compensate. They learn to do it a slightly different way," she said.

Fogel particularly likes the Wilson Reading Intervention Program, which helps students read words by breaking down letters and sounds.

She started teaching in St. Mary's County in 1976 and has spent the past eight years at Spring Ridge.

"In order to teach the child, you have to be able to reach that child," she said. That includes learning about the child's life; for a time, she made regular visits to Wal-Mart to catch up with a parent working there whom she otherwise could not reach.

The Sam Kirk award goes annually to one educator in the nation who has made outstanding contributions to the education of people with learning disabilities. The award takes its name from an early researcher and writer in the field of learning disabilities who died in 1996.

While earning a master's in special education at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fogel used a textbook Kirk wrote. "I remembered when he died and I thought, 'Wow, what a pioneer,' " she said.

Besides her teaching, Fogel has been the librarian and secretary for the Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary's County and is now the vice president.

"She has seen a lot of changes in special education and sort of followed its evolution to where it is now," said Missy Alexander of the St. Mary's association.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America enriches the lives of families affected by learning disabilities and works as advocates and to spread awareness in communities, Alexander said. Fogel fits into that mission perfectly, she said.

"She thinks out of the box. Her goal is to meet the child's need," Alexander said. "Anne does what it takes."

Information about learning disabilities and advocacy groups is available at http://www.ldaamerica.org.

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