PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA BISHOP As written work requires time-consuming revisions, English teacher Melissa Bishop turns to alternatives that depend on her oral skills. “I often voice to text or record materials and then go over those recordings or voice to texts and translate them into a full-fledged written response,” Bishop said.

Bishop’s dyslexia rearranges apathy with empathy

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She never knew she had it.

English teacher Melissa Bishop was diagnosed with dyslexia in third grade after her evaluation stated, “In reading and spelling, she often did not separate words, omitted letters, and reversed letters and numbers. She also struggled with impulse control and focus.”

Beginning her educational journey at a private school, Bishop frequently disguised her progress in areas such as reading and writing by using her memory. 

“I could retell stories verbatim if someone had read them to me,” Bishop said. “I often had stories read to me at home by my parents, and I would select those same stories at school to read, so I could rely on my memory to mask what I was not able to do.”

When transitioning to a public school during second grade, Bishop encountered a demoralizing environment. There, she was bombarded with standardized testing which, along with the lack of support, propelled her plummeting performance. 

“School was never easy, and young peers were mean,” Bishop said. “I could not spell my name in second and third grade. As a result, I was called ‘retarded.’ I never felt supported by teachers in elementary school. This feeling was confirmed when a teacher of mine shared with me that she was so proud of me as none of the teachers thought I would amount to much.”

Over time, Bishop’s declining scores caught the attention of her parents, who requested the school to assess her for a learning disability. 

“Even when every teacher I had from second grade until high school thought little of me, my parents believed in me,” Bishop said. “I was not able to read on my own until the sixth grade, but my parents took the time to read to me every night until the skill set in.” 

As she grew up, the constant discouragement motivated her to become an English teacher. Because her parents supported her, Bishop now aims to incorporate compassion and understanding in her approach to teaching.

“Literature opens the interstices of a character’s conscience to readers and allows readers to walk in other people’s shoes,” Bishop said. “While reason guides…sentiments… sentiments ultimately motivate actions, good or bad; and the more we can develop the capacity of understanding other people’s struggles and experiences the more advanced a society we will become.” 

To ensure quality education for her students, Bishop dedicates a lot of time to revising assignments, taking advantage of many resources including voice to text and spell-check. She also is direct and communicative about dyslexia with her students.

“I walk into my classroom open and transparent about my challenges, so I do not have to hide from the challenges I will likely face,” Bishop said. “It takes a lot of courage to tell 160 or so students each year that I am going to perform less proficient than many of them when it comes to the nitty-gritty of spelling and real-time-writing.” 

Bishop has been working as an English teacher at the school since 2011, teaching both regular and AP courses, and as an adjunct professor at local colleges. At the end of every school year, Bishop also requests to work cooperatively with the special education department in the following year. Overcoming the challenges of dyslexia, Bishop especially understands how difficult the road to success is and the importance of a strong support system.

“I know what it is like to be underestimated and to be looked down on, and I know what having one or two teachers believe in you can do for self-esteem and future performance,” Bishop said. “I strive as a teacher to believe in every student, to let them know I see their potential, and I am excited by their futures.”

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