Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast for episode #142, with Michal Ricca[i], the Founder of Now I Can Read who created an online literacy program called ReaDefy Learning[ii] for children aged 10-17 who struggle with literacy.
We know from our past episode #136[iii] with Lois Letchford, with her dyslexic son who went on to graduate with his Ph.D from Oxford University, that some children need different learning strategies than how they are taught traditionally in the classroom. Michal’s program focuses on the critical life skills of verbal and written language and communication with the backbone of social and emotional skills to help propel these students to excel both inside and outside of the classroom. Michal has a powerful story that I wanted to share, to open up some ideas and strategies if you are a teacher in the classroom, or if you are a parent with a struggling reader at home. For those looking for ideas for the workplace, Michal has a compelling story that she will share on how she took all of her programs online, maximizing her time and efforts with her students, and giving her more balance back in her life.
I’m Andrea Samadi, author and educator from Toronto, Canada, now living in the United States, and like many of our listeners, have been fascinated with learning and understanding the science behind high performance strategies in our schools, sports, and the workplace. If you have been listening to our podcast, you will know that we’ve uncovered that if we want to improve our social and emotional skills, and experience success in our work and personal lives, it all begins with an understanding of our brain.
When I first met Michael, through LinkedIn, I knew right away that she had created something unique, when I heard that she has been focused on helping struggling students to learn how to read for the past 20 years, and has helped over 1,000 students to read. If you have ever worked with one struggling reader, you will know that it takes someone extremely special to uncover exactly what each student needs, and Michal has this gift.
You can learn more about Michal and her programs through her website, but here’s a bit about her background.
Michal Ricca, M.Ed. Founded the Academic Associates Center in Williston, VT in 2008. She holds an Advanced Teaching Masters of Education from Northwestern University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education, and has over twenty years experience working with students with all types of learning styles and differences.
Michal has been trained in Wilson, Orton-Gillingham, Academic Associates, Framing Your Thoughts, MindPlay, and many other techniques, while also having studied at Columbia University with Lucy Calkins herself. Michal is a literacy addict and sees herself as a lifelong learner, staying current with best practice through journals, collegiate discussions, and professional development.
Michal pulls from many sources to individualize instruction, but her foundation is the Orton-Gillingham technique. Her program is a multi-sensory and enables students, by using direct instruction, to review, learn new concepts, practice, and to apply what they are learning. Orton-Gillingham has been utilized for over 50 years and is multi-sensory, systematic, structured, sequential, cumulative, and success-oriented.
Research states that the effectiveness of quality literacy instruction has less to do with the program used, and more to do with the efficacy of the teacher and the intensiveness of the student’s engagement.
Let’s meet Michal Ricca and see what strategies she can bring to light after 20 years of focused work in the field of literacy and social and emotional learning.
Welcome Michal. It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to speak with you here. Thank you very much for sharing your story that I know will spark some new ideas for those listening who might be working with students who are struggling readers.
Q1: When we first met through LinkedIn, something caught my attention about your work with students. It was the fact that you’ve been focused on one thing for over 20 years and that’s to help struggling students learn how to read.
Over the past two decades, You’ve taught “over 1,000 students how to read without the need for repeat instruction.”
What or who was it that inspired you to pick reading for your life’s work and what’s kept you on this subject area for the past 20 years?
Q2: I read on your website something that any teacher can pick up in a heartbeat and it was that “that the art of teaching can’t be taught. Instead, it’s often the result of a natural gift that has been fostered by continuous study”
Can we talk about that? We’ve all had those teachers that had that quality. They instilled the love of learning in us—
I saw it in Lois Letchford whose son failed 1st grade and went on to graduate from Oxford university with his PhD and it was because she found what motivated her son to read when he began to learn about maps and world explorers like Captain Cook. That ignited his learning.
I saw it immediately with you-20 years helping students learning to read.
I know what inspired your love for the subject, but what else is there? Why do you think you’ve got something that most people don’t have?
Q3: I remember when I had to move my program for the school market to an online model, and this was in 2014 when I had to learn how to code a website. There was a huge learning curve back then, not like today you can just buy a pre-made template. Can you share how the pandemic and your health caused you to change your entire business model from one-on-one instruction to online, and how exactly did you do that?
Q4: How does your program work? Are you working with students outside of VT? How about internationally? Could someone join your program if they lived in Canada or the UK? Is your training recorded or is it live?
Q5: Since our podcast has a huge component for implementing social and emotional learning, I loved when you mentioned it’s also your focus. How do you incorporate social and emotional learning into your programs?
Q6: What’s your vision for your online programs? Where would you like to see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
Thank you very much for taking the time to share the incredible work you are doing to empower students through reading. If anyone wants to reach you and learn more about your programs, is the best way through your website https://www.readefylearning.com/
Michal Ricca LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/michalricca/
Book a Consultation https://www.readefylearning.com/contact
I’m Worried My Child Has Dyslexia, What Now FREE Ebook https://www.readefylearning.com/
[iii] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #136 with Lois Letchford on “From Dyslexia to Ph.D” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/case-study-the-story-of-lois-letchford-from-dyslexia-to-phd-at-oxford-using-neuroscience-to-inspire-learning/