Summer is almost here and for most school-aged students, this is a time for taking a break and enjoying a little much-needed rest and relaxation. However, for the nearly 2.5 million students around the country who have been diagnosed with learning disabilities, summer can be a stressful time, especially as parents worry and wonder what their educational options will be come fall.
For Knoxville students with learning disabilities and other challenges, there is an incredible resource that many don’t realize is in our own backyard.
Berean Christian School has been offering quality private faith-based education for the past 34 years. But this isn’t the only thing that sets Berean apart. Since 2011, Berean Christian School has offered the SOAR Program as a way to meet the needs of students in our area with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and others.
SOAR stands for Specialized instruction provides Opportunities for daily success and Allows our students to Reach their full potential.
In June of 2007, Headmaster George Waller and educator Bob Core discussed how Berean Christian School had no formal program that catered to students with learning challenges. While many of the school’s teachers gave their time after school to try and address this issue, there was no real plan in place to meet the need.
Waller and Core ended up connecting with Dr. Elizabeth Cox, an educational psychologist. With her assistance, the SOAR program was launched in the spring of 2011 and had an initial enrollment of five students, all second graders.
Unlike other programs, SOAR pairs intensely tailored classroom instruction with a Christ-centered approach to learning. Local public schools offer tiered classroom instruction, but the student must be severely challenged to even qualify for this type of small group instruction. Other area private schools only offer “pull-out” programs where students receive limited attention.
Berean Christian School’s SOAR program offers the only all-day, contained classroom experience for struggling students in Knoxville and, as a result, is uniquely positioned to give these students what they need to succeed.
The SOAR program at Berean Christian School addresses the specific needs of students who struggle in a traditional classroom due to dyslexia and other learning challenges. These bright students often find school very frustrating because reading and writing challenges often go unrecognized or unaddressed. Parents also experience frustration and disappointment while feeling unsure about how to help their children.
SOAR offers Knoxville’s first specialized classroom designed exclusively for these students. It pairs grade-level instruction with an individualized plan for each student. Class sizes are intentionally kept small in order to provide students with the highest degree of personal attention. In addition to a classroom teacher, students in the SOAR program also receive additional support from an on-staff educational psychologist and learning specialist.
Initial struggles with reading and writing can produce long-term challenges, but the SOAR program provides early intervention and proactively equips students with the necessary tools so they can succeed not only in these subject areas, but also in others where language acts as an integral building block.
Another great thing about the Berean SOAR Program is that the school’s administration is continually looking for ways to improve the program’s offerings and better meet the needs of students. The newest development to be implemented in the SOAR Program is an integrated technology program, which utilizes audio books and voice recognition software to better meet the specific learning needs of each student.
Students who are most likely to benefit from the SOAR Program are rising 2nd and 3rd graders, with average to above-average cognitive ability. The program is specifically designed to help create educational success for students who struggle in the areas of reading and writing. Often these students become frustrated with their lack of success in a traditional learning environment and SOAR is a way that parents can feel confident about their children’s education as they grow and thrive.
To learn more about the Berean Christian School SOAR Program, visit bereanchristian.org/soar or call (865) 521-605 to speak with Dr. Bob Core.