We had the good fortune of connecting with Melissa Dean and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melissa, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks has been instrumental in every aspect of my career. As an educator, I have had to take huge leaps of faith to get to the next level. Even though I might not have seen the need for a change at the time, different things happened along the way to influence me to inspire changes in my career. The decision to become a dyslexia educator was, in a way, made for me; it was the only job that was available to me fresh out of college back in 2010. Even though my undergraduate studies were in elementary education, I knew nothing of how to help a child with dyslexia learn how to read. With a crash course in the basics of the instructional practice needed to teach the students, I took a job as a long-term substitute for a dyslexia teacher. Teaching children with dyslexia to read is very different and I fell in love with helping these students. Without taking a risk and accepting that job, I would have never known how much I needed these children as much as they needed this instruction. That love inspired me to further my education to get the training necessary to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist. Without the experience of teaching dyslexic children both in Keller and Southlake, I would not have been prepared to start my own private practice. While the move from the security of a school district job to the unknown of owning my own business was risky, I now feel confident that the decision was best for me and my family!

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, my career as a school district teacher came to an end. While this was a huge change for me professionally, it was the right decision for me personally. In 2019, a medical condition appeared suddenly, causing me to be hospitalized for 12 days, four of which were in the ICU. This condition changed my life and left me needing accommodations to work. Even with accommodations, I still had difficulties with the intense demands of an educator’s school district job. It was easy to see the load wasn’t going to get any lighter, so I decided to resign in May 2021. Consequently, the decision to start my own business was made very quickly because the summer is the time that many parents will seek extra help for their struggling reader; even though it wasn’t easy, I wanted to leap on the opportunity to provide my services.

Kids First Dyslexia Services is a private therapy business that puts the child first, all the time. As an educator and language therapist, I know that a successful learning experience is built by developing a relationship between educator and student that has trust, caring and compassion at its’ core. Creating that bond is paramount; it is necessary to build children’s self-esteem and helps them be willing to take risks in their learning. Over the past eleven years, I have taught hundreds of elementary-aged children with dyslexia. When the students first start therapy, some of them can’t read at all and almost all of them are below level. It takes time, but you can start seeing changes within the first year and, after the first year, the progress really starts to speed up. The children become more confident and they are excited to know that they are making progress. My most proud moments are hearing of them overcoming their learning difference and finding great success in reading and their education overall. When they reach the higher grade levels, some of my former students are nominated for the Duke Tip program, the National Honor Society, take dual credit classes and have numerous colleges sending offers. What a gift they will be for our future!

Other than the emphasis I put on relationship building, what also sets my practice apart from others who provide therapy is that I have a private office suite in which there are no distractions and where uninterrupted learning can happen. Scheduling appointments is also easy for busy families; customers receive a link to an appointment management website where they can select a date and time available that works best for their schedule. Also, I have been trained in and have materials for two different curriculums, Scottish Rite’s Take Flight and the Multisensory Teaching Approach (MTA). These Orton-Gillingham based curriculums are used in DFW area school districts and help me meet school-aged kids’ needs.

It brings me great joy to still be able to do what I love, which is helping children be confident readers and happy, content students.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are so many great places in DFW! My family, friends and I enjoy going to concerts, shopping and dining out across the metroplex. Our itinerary would include seeing a concert or comedy show at the Toyota Music Pavillion in Las Colinas and grabbing dinner and drinks while we wait for it to begin! Then we would do some high-end shopping at the Shops of Legacy and, while there, pick from a variety of unique restaurants at which to dine. Our shopping adventures would continue in Frisco, where we would visit The Stonebriar Center. Our final destination would be to visit the Perot Museum and Klyde Warren Park.

After living in the metroplex for forty years, my ultimate favorite location is the city of Southlake, where there is a variety of restaurants, shops and beautiful parks and walking trails. The Town Square is the center for all the big events like Oktoberfest, Independence Day celebration, holiday festivities, parades and more. During the holiday season, the entire Square is beautifully decorated and all the buildings and trees are trimmed with lights. It really captures the holiday spirit and brings me so much joy just by driving through the town. Southlake is a safe place to visit and is a community unlike any other in the metroplex!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people who have loved and inspired me and have been a source of support, love and encouragement all along the way. My husband and son, my parents and sisters have been the biggest supporters of me and my career. They have helped set up my classrooms and they have helped clean out my classrooms when it was time to move on. They are the ones to whom I proposed all of my ideas and they have believed in me every step of the way, even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Additionally, I have to attribute the beginning of my career in dyslexia therapy to Allison Clackler, who taught and mentored me before I took over her classroom as a long-term substitute. Without her taking the chance on me, I would not have known the joys of teaching children with dyslexia. When she returned from her leave, she praised my work with her students, which was such a huge compliment! Her own passion for helping the children is clearly evident and she continues to make a difference in the lives of her students with dyslexia!

Website: www.kidsfirstdyslexia.com

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/melissa-dean-4a704b23

Twitter: @kids1stdyslexia

Facebook: @kidsfirstdyslexia

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