Micah Gabrielle Wittmer, PhD
Certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist
Associate/ Orton Gillingham Academy
Micah has held a variety of teaching positions in the past 20 + years, including adjunct professor, Board of Education certified middle school ELA and history teacher, Orton Gillingham tutor, undergraduate teaching fellow, undergraduate academic advisor, early childhood music teacher, and violin teacher. She devoted the past seven years of her career as an educator to teaching middle school ELA and history.
Micah left her career in higher education to pursue teaching middle school ELA and history for three primary reasons. For starters, she wanted to contribute to filling the immense need for quality teachers that are capable of providing effective academic interventions for this age group. Secondly, she understood that the adolescent years are when children's keen sense of fairness is coupled with the desire to understand the society they live in and the why behind injustices that have touched their life. Finally, Micah owes her education success to the intervention she received in middle school and knows first-hand that middle school has proven to be the time when interventions are most necessary to ensure high school graduation (as supported by the research of Robert Balfanz).
To tap into this innate sense of social justice and therefore maximize their literacy skill development, Micah creates curricula that enables students to understand the individual’s role in society and provide critical thinking tools, language skills, and historical knowledge necessary to become civically engaged, culturally sensitive, empathetic, and articulate change makers. She strives to ensure the curricula is both culturally responsive and meets the needs of students with language based learning differences and executive functioning challenges. Her past curriculum development includes co-creating the 7th grade humanities curriculum titled “Justice in the U.S.A” at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY and revamping the 7th grade history curriculum at The Carroll School in Lincoln, MA ( a school for students with language based learning differences). When creating history and ELA curricula, Micah applies the interdisciplinary approach she employed when conducting her dissertation research on the racial representations and expressions of nationalism by African Americans in the Works Progress Administration’s musical productions during the 1930s. Her research draws on the works of sociologists, historians, cultural theorists, and music scholars.
Micah created and implemented an anti-bias, anti-racist, social emotional intelligence advisory curriculum titled Foundations for Brave Conversations at The Carroll School. This curriculum came about after the unrest of the spring of 2020 due to the senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Students needed not only space to process these events and subsequent protests, but also shared language and understanding of how prejudice, racism, and injustice manifest in our society. Furthermore, this curriculum empowers and equips adults in the learning community to have these conversations with students and put into practice what they had been discussing in their Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI)-centered professional development. Micah also established a team of seven DEI coordinators who work to expand the curriculum and facilitate training workshops for faculty.
Dr. Micah Wittmer is a Certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist (C-SLDI through the Center for Effective Reading Instruction/ International Dyslexia Association) and an Orton Gillingham Academy Associate. Dedicated to continuing professional development, she works closely with a mentor in the Academy and fulfills the Academy's established professional development requirements. She is also trained in Project Read's multisensory curricula for reading comprehension (Report Form) and grammar/writing (Framing Your Thoughts). She has experience with reading neuropsychological reports and developing individualized learning plans for advisees based on the reports. She co- taught a graduate seminar on literacy pedagogy titled Literacy Through The Disciplines offered as a required course for students in the Lesley University/Carroll School collaborative graduate program.
Dr. Wittmer serves on the Board of Directors of both the Northern Ohio chapter of the International Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Alliance for Black Children.
She currently lives in Cleveland Ohio with her standard poodle, Cocoa Fluff.
My Journey to obtaining a diagnosis
I began teaching when I was 14 years old. Pedagogy quickly became my hobby as I was intrigued with ways to connect with students and help them overcome various hurdles. Although pedagogy is an unusual hobby for a teenager, I read any pedagogy book I could get my hands on, in part, because I was trying to figure out how to overcome my own challenges with attention and reading. Through this quest, I learned about multisensory approaches to teaching both reading and music and incorporated it into my teaching as well as my own studying. It was through this inquiry and experimentation on students and myself that I learned about dyslexia, setting me on a journey to obtaining an official diagnosis of specific learning disability in reading, dyscalculia, and ADHD, and igniting my passion for helping adolescents overcome learning challenges.
My parents and I knew that I learned differently. When I was in fifth grade, attending a small Christian private school, my mom was my fifth grade teacher. Horrified, she witnessed first hand my inability to function in school. It felt like everything was so difficult. Copying notes from the board, writing my ideas on paper, comprehending what I read, performing basic math calculations was torturously painful. On top of these academic struggles, my body felt like it was going to explode when I had to sit quietly for more than 30 minutes behind a desk. Fearing my academic demise, my mom quit her job, took me out of school, and homeschooled me in the middle of my fifth grade year. Day after day, she poured into me, determined to rebuild my self confidence and academic skills. Though my mom knew that I learned differently, she did not understand dyslexia and ADHD and did not want me to be labeled as another black child who couldn't read, so she did the best she could, finding curriculum that would provide me with the remediation and solid foundation I needed to succeed academically.
I managed to develop several strategies and tools that helped me succeed academically, though it was a long and painful process. I am fortunate to have had parents that believed that I was exceptionally smart and, despite my struggles, never allowed me to think that I would achieve anything but academic success. With the strategies and tools I developed over the years, I managed to complete a PhD program at Harvard University in historical musicology, although it was an extremely difficult process. When I had finished the final draft of my dissertation, I wanted to know for sure that I was dyslexic and had attention issues, so I took advantage of access to a neuropsychologist provided to Harvard students, and finally pursued a complete neuropsychological evaluation. While it was a relief to know that I am neurodivergent, It was also painful to realize that I did not have to struggle so much if I could have accessed the accommodations and tools provided for people with a diagnosis. As a result, I became even more determined to be a highly skilled educator who could effectively teach literacy skills to students like myself.