“I understand my students because I have already felt their deep frustrations for myself. Frustration is being told you are a capable student without acknowledging why you struggle so much at school. Overcoming that struggle has given me the empathy, patience, experience, and strategies needed to support my students in their own struggles.”
Drew as a child
My learning disabilities became clear from an early age. I experienced dyslexia and ADHD. Even though I could quickly form and apply concepts, I struggled to read, to write, to hold a pencil, and to arrive on time. As the only member of my family with these challenges, I felt isolated. I also felt misunderstood: by myself and by others.
Later, tests confirmed my learning disabilities. But those tests also identified my giftedness. So in the 5th and 6th grades, I attended Kenneth Gordon School (now Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School). At the school, I received Orton-Gillingham tutoring to remediate my reading and writing. But this taught me more than just reading and writing: it taught me about who I am. I finally discovered my gifts because I was in an environment that acknowledged and supported my dyslexia and ADHD.
Drew as a teen
At Prince of Wales Secondary School, I entered the GOLD program for students whom experience both intellectual giftedness and learning disabilities. Though high school challenged me more than most of my peers, GOLD was where I belonged. GOLD taught me much:
the importance of self advocacy.
clever ways to improve academic achievement.
techniques for organizing, planning, and managing my time.
how to pursue my other passions, such as basketball and drama.
I still put these lessons to use today—in my personal life and in my work with students.
The GOLD program supported my drive to improve through high school and beyond. After high school, I went on to Langara College and the University of British Columbia (UBC), which paved the way to a position at the United Nations!
Drew as a young adult
While completing my undergraduate degree, I began tutoring a gifted and learning-disabled (GLD) child at the request of that child’s mom. She had exhausted other options for supporting her child’s learning profile. My success at tutoring her child where others failed led to my part-time position at Madrona School Society.
Madrona is a small elementary school for “independent learners.” These GLD and emotionally fragile students can let their quirky personalities shine at Madrona. Working with such spirited children is how I fell in love with non-standard education.
Drew at the United Nations
After completing my BA in Geography and International Relations at UBC, I pursued a longtime dream. That dream was to work at the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. Fulfilling this dream was a hard-won victory. I secured myself a position as a research officer at the ILO.
This was a prestigious position that sent me on assignment to South Africa. The work required me to sit still, to read, and to write all day. But I’m not built for that, and I knew it could never make me happy. I needed to return to education.
Drew as an educator
I resumed work as an educator in Vancouver after my time with the ILO in Geneva and South Africa. In Vancouver, I trained as an Orton-Gillingham tutor. Next, I began tutoring at Little House Tutoring and Learning Centre. At the centre, I worked one-on-one with ADHD, learning-disabled, and GLD students.
More recently, I have worked as a student support worker with the Vancouver School Board, as an executive skills coach with Mosaic Education, and as a speech-language pathologist assistant with Vancouver Language Therapy 4 Kids.
Today, I privately coach executive skills and mentor struggling and gifted elementary, highschool, and university students. And I remain an advocate for GLD issues:
I am a founding member of the Gifted and Learning Disabled Advocacy Group of Vancouver.
I was the principal presenter in a successful, multi-year lobby to establish a second GOLD program. The program now serves David Thompson Secondary School thanks to the collaboration of parents and educators.
Drew as an advocate
I understand my students because I have already felt their deep frustrations for myself. Frustration is being told you are a capable student without acknowledging why you struggle so much at school. Overcoming that struggle has given me the empathy, patience, experience, and strategies needed to support my students in their own struggles. I provide that support as follows:
I listen to my students without judging them. Through listening, I identify their frustrations and challenges.
I guide my students toward strategies that empower them. These strategies offer students the tools they need to triumph over their frustrations. The tools are effective because they are based on best practices and on my own experiences.
I support my students in effectively using these strategies to overcome their frustrations and to achieve education excellence.
I am a balanced and accountable person today because of the strategies and attitudes that I have developed, nurtured, and improved upon since an early age. My youth surrounded me with peers facing challenges just like my own. This experience guides me toward a way of living and teaching that resonates well with my students today.
I have become the very person I needed when I was a student and now serve that role for others.