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Learning Center services planned for July

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 11:50 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 12:20 p.m. CDT
Christopher Woodin, mathematics and learning disability expert from Massachusetts, presents different methods of teaching during a mathematics workshop at Southwestern Community College Saturday. The two-day workshop was hosted by The Learning Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children with learning disabilities use different methods to learn easier.

The Learning Center of Southwest Iowa plans to pilot services come July.

The non-profit entity, formerly just a board of directors, procured a space at Southwestern Community College and will begin pilot services to children and adolescents July 1.

“The Learning Center is a new, non-profit organization to provide children who learn differently with a supplemental screening and tutoring service and support to achieve academic success,” said Learning Center Board President Dick Fries. “It is our desire to partner with the school districts and AEA (area education agency) to provide services to help children with learning differences beyond the classroom.”

The organization’s reach is 35 miles beyond the Creston city limits, and will not isolate one learning disability over another.

Plans laid out

The Learning Center services provide space and tutoring to children with learning differences. The pilot service program will go until the end of June 2015.

“There’s always room for additional resources, I believe, for families who have individuals who learn differently,” said Kathy Ralston, parent and Learning Center board member.

Ralston presented with several other board members the background and goals of The Learning Center to Creston School Board during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday.

“An entity like this, to me, as a new member of the community, shows a community investment. It shows that leaders of the community are investing in all citizens,” Ralston said.

Ralston and the other present board members, including Board President Dick Fries, Board Vice President Suzanne Johnston, retired East Union teacher and guidance counselor Jean Sheridan and board member Dave Beck, laid out the different goals the organization had for itself.


The main goal of the Learning Center is teaching children with disorders like dyslexia, forms of autism or dyscalculia how to learn.

Through nearly two years of research, looking at other national learning centers and hosting workshops to teach different learning strategies, such as the most recent one with Chris Woodin of Landmark School in Massachusetts, The Learning Center has gathered information relevant to its needs.

“Our vision is that these children, their families and the schools that educate them will have access to research-based services and training which are needed to reach the potential of successful, life-long learners,” Ralston said.

During the school board meeting, Ralston and the others presented statewide and local statistics to support their cause. According to the statistics, there are large proficiency gaps in children with individual education plans, who are minorities or have free or reduced lunch.

Other statistics show 28 percent of Creston children live below the poverty level, and 16 percent of adults in Union County have a four-year college degree.

“Unfortunately, there’s a gap between our teacher training, even parent training,” Suzanne Johnston said, “and understanding how to meet the needs of kids who have learning differences.”


One way the Learning Center is providing resources to the community is by hosting local workshops. The organization hosted a two-day math workshop at SWCC Friday and Saturday, with Chris Woodin as speaker.

Woodin, a specialist in mathematics and learning disabilities, showed local teachers, administrators and others how to teach children with disabilities so they retain the information and are able to learn information easier in the future. He used drawing exercises, colors, dominoes and plastic cubes as teaching materials.


The Learning Center is a non-profit organization designed to provide children with different learning abilities with support needed to succeed academically.

The organization offers assessments, tutoring and parent education and support. One part of the vision of the center is to raise awareness of learning disabilities and differences in the area.

A board of 13 members makes up the Learning Center’s central direction. The members are from local sponsors or have a connection to the learning community.

Sponsors are Bunn-O-Matic, Iowa Works, Iowa State University-Union County Extension, Green Accounting Services, Green Hills AEA, Southern Iowa RC and D, Southern Prairie YMCA and SWCC.

To request information or volunteer, contact Executive Director Dave Beck at Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development at (641) 782-7058.

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