Henry Winkler: From "The Fonz" to the Coolest Champion for Developing Learners by Renee Herren
One day my principal asked me if I wanted to attend an event that featured Henry Winkler as a guest speaker. Um ... is this even a real question? Of course I wanted to attend! Who wouldn’t want to see “The Fonz” in person?
I knew that Mr. Winkler had struggled in school, but I did not know to what extent until I heard him speak. My heart broke when I heard him say that when he was younger he was allergic to school, that no matter how hard he tried he just could not succeed, and that he was just waiting to get out of school so he could be OK. Then he said something that would forever change me as a teacher. Standing on a stage in front of hundreds of teachers and other public school stakeholders Mr. Winkler said:
“When I found out I was dyslexic as an adult, I realized I was not stupid. I was not lazy. We have to teach children how they learn.”
After hearing Henry Winkler’s story, I began to expose my students to Mr. Winkler’s books. His books use the Dyslexie font so it is easier for people with dyslexia to read, and the pages have a lot of white space. Some chapters are pages long while others are only a paragraph. Even if a child has a hard time reading or is reluctant to read, they can read these books and feel successful!
I also changed how I taught reading. I began my lessons explaining why I was teaching a certain strategy or using a specific reading tool. My students started to become more invested in their learning. They began to recognize the strategies that worked for them and they started to advocate for themselves. Their confidence and their love of learning increased simply because they were learning how they learn.
Thank you, Mr. Winkler, for letting me know how to better reach my students and for being an ambassador for struggling learners!
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