Congratulations to SLHS Faculty, Anne Whitney!

We like to celebrate SLHS faculty as well as alumni by occasionally putting their work and goals in the spotlight. Anne Whitney took time from a busy transition to tell us about her current journey. Ask Anne about her retirement and you’ll find a renaissance in the making, a combination of professional and personal goals that relate to her passions.

Anne was at CU from 1992 on. She first came as a summer replacement supervisor and at the end of summer, Susan Moore asked her to stay on. Anne took a year’s leave of absence from Thompson R2-J School District and commuted from Ft. Collins for that year. She then stayed on the following summer and beyond. Anne tells us that she took a 2-year departure to work in the publishing world, but when that was over, Susan hired me back and I even had the same office and phone number.  

Anne made many valuable connections with community agencies in the area. Fortunately, some will continue. She gave us some background.

"While at CU, I developed a relationship with the Odyssey School at Centennial Peaks Psychiatric Hospital and we did all their academic and language evaluations for them for 7 years. We realized that 64% of the students (ages 8-16) had a never previously diagnosed language disorder and of that cohort, 81% had poor phonemic awareness and reading difficulties.  So, I began looking for a curriculum that could help them. I attended a Reading in the Rockies conference in Vail around 1995 where Jane Fell Greene spoke of her new curriculum called LANGUAGE ! that was for 4th-12th grade students with language and literacy issues. That started my passion for scientifically based reading interventions that continues to this day.  My stint in publishing was actually co-writing the 2nd edition of the LANGUAGE ! Curriculum. I was fortunate to meet some of the best movers and shakers in the world of dyslexia at that time and that launched me into working with Dr. Louisa Moats and becoming one of her national trainers for Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS).  This is a professional development series of courses that I’ve trained in several states to both general education teachers and special education teachers. I’ve worked with Dr. Moats in writing LANGUAGE ! Live, the newest version of Jane Fell Greene’s original curriculum. Currently, I’m working with Dr. Moats in writing the 3rd Edition of LETRS.  I’ll continue with LETRS trainings during my retirement."

Looking back at her experience in the SLHS Department, Anne has some encouraging views.

Over the years of working in SLHS, I’ve seen the dichotomy between the academic faculty and the clinical faculty narrow. I believe that Dr. Ramsberger’s work to achieve recognition of clinical faculty with a career ladder of assistant, associate, and full professor certainly did a lot to help narrow the gap. I also appreciate the new young faculty members who have joined the department and their acceptance of clinical faculty as parallel peers.  Among the clinical faculty, I’ve appreciated the friendships and the caring we have for each other. This is a group who always has each other’s backs. Overall, the department has continued to develop a solid footing in the College of Arts & Sciences and the work of our researchers and clinic has been recognized internationally, nationally, and locally.

When asked about specific memories or stories, Anne tells us that, for her, they come down to her students and the enrichment they brought to her life. Anne’s creativity and connection with students is well known. 

I’m proud of our students and happy to maintain lifelong relationships with many of them. One memory I have is of the fall semester several years ago when the second year students were scrambling to turn in their Passion Papers, then the major part of the comprehensive examination. They had clinic, classes with midterms, and this paper all due around the same time in mid-October.  Stress levels were high. So, to break the stress, I arranged to take all the 2nd year students to a Corn Maze and then out to dinner. Letting loose in the cornfield was just what the students needed. I think there were a few that had trouble finding their way out again, but when it came time to head for dinner, they managed to appear. After a delicious Mexican food dinner and the appropriate beverages to go with Mexican food, the stress levels were reduced dramatically. That was a super fun time.

Another fun memory was the year that I had my usual Language Learning Disability diagnostic teams. Back in the day, the students would bring snacks for the clients and some of us to share in the observation room. This particular year, we had an incoming class of 39 so each team had 6 members. My two teams started to get competitive with each other on who could bring the best snacks. One team went with a little kid theme and make triangle peanut butter sandwiches, ants on a log, and juice boxes to drink. A second team went for a home baked theme. I can’t even remember what all they brought. But the winner for the year was the team that had a Mexican theme. They had a serape draped over the table, a large sombrero in the middle, guac and chips and other Mexican delights, but to top it off, they had fake margarita glasses and margaritas (virgin, of course)

A more recent memory was my last Salad Bar. At the end of each semester, on the last day of clinic, tradition dictates that we have a salad bar lunch together to celebrate the survival of the semester.  So, unbeknownst to me, at my last Salad Bar lunch this past spring, the students put on a fashion show for me.  You see, everyone else has CCCs that represent the Certificate of Clinical Competence. Mine, however, is for Color Coordinated Codependent. So my fashion show consisted of an array of students, both male and female, dressed from head to toe in each of the colors of the rainbow. They even carried matching purses or books that were in the same color family. How great was that?

In terms of inspiration, I’d have to say the many children and adults who have come back to tell our students and me how the work we did on reading changed their lives. One young man with dyslexia ended up going into the seminary, a field he wouldn’t have chosen were it not for his improved reading skills. Another young man started at SLHC when he was 14, had been homeschooled but was unable to read “cat, fat, sat.” He worked diligently with our students and was able to finally re-enter public school, was admitted to a vocational school, and finally started junior college. There are many, many more stories to tell, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell the best story of all, the story of Ian Weber (name used with permission). Many who read this will remember Ian from his early days in CLC all the way to his current lessons at SLHC on reading. Ian is an inspiration not only to me but also to every student who has worked with him. His constant cheerful mood, ‘can do’ attitude, ‘never give up’ spirit are qualities that inspire each student who has worked with him over the years. He makes slow but steady progress and is able to read at a low 2nd grade level now, a skill he’s proud of and proclaims, “That’s easy.” after mastering!  Ian gives back more than he knows and each year, when students write their Essential Learning Experiences for their portfolios, I look forward to reading how Ian has touched the lives of our students - because each year, his clinician chooses Ian to write about.

We wanted to know about Anne’s plans for the future. Here’s where we see that retirement equates with new exploration and opportunities. 

Probably the thing I’m most excited about in relation to literacy and dyslexia is the calming of the Reading Wars and more acceptance of code-based reading instruction as a necessary approach to reading for all students but especially for students with language learning disabilities and dyslexia. There’s more work to be done, but many states are now adopting dyslexia laws and have approved lists of curricula from which districts may choose. The professional development is improving as well. The focus on morphology that is the newest swing of the pendulum is very exciting and one I’ve been waiting for since the late 90s.

We learned that one of the things that drives Anne in our field are the career choices we have. “The beauty of this field is that it’s so diverse. There are so many avenues and career changes possible all without leaving the field that there’s no reason to ever get bored. Fortunately, this motivates her to stay connected to our field, “I’ll continue to write and to train teachers about literacy and struggling readers, writers, and spellers. I’ll probably do some diagnostics in my private practice. As for leisure time Anne told us that she hopes “to spend more time on the golf course and heavens knows, my game needs more practice. And I’d love to travel to see animals and take pictures of them in the wild.”

Many alumni know Anne in some capacity from her past 24 years at SLHS. She was recently honored by the department in a celebration at the CU Koenig Alumni Center.

Join us in congratulating Anne as she “retires” while continuing to be a vital part of our field as author, curriculum developer, practitioner, and respected colleague.