Lives in: Sykesville
Children: Noah (17) and Mariana (13)
Occupation: Founder and executive director of The Legacy School
What led you to found The Legacy School in 2011?
At the time, I was working as an advocate for several families that needed an alternative education for their children. The problems were similar in all these families; their children were not reading and writing on grade level, and the children were also struggling with school-related anxiety, which negatively impacted their self-esteem. Many local private schools that could accommodate these learning challenges were full with extensive waiting lists, and there was not a similar school in Carroll County. This led me to consider the possibility of opening a school to serve these children, and I began looking for possible locations. Once I located our beautiful campus, I knew that this idea could take form and be successful. We opened our doors with 17 students, and our enrolment is now at 62 students.
Why is having a school designed to meet the educational needs of students with language-based learning differences important?
Reading readiness skills are introduced in kindergarten. Children with language-based learning differences need these reading skills taught in a multi-sensory, systematic way. Furthermore, reading instruction needs to be presented at the child’s pace in order for these children to retain the reading skills. Often times, this does not happen in a big classroom, and these very bright, capable children start becoming anxious and begin blaming themselves. Children with learning differences will start comparing themselves to other children and it negatively impacts how they perceive themselves. Often this escalates into a child misbehaving or even refusing to do work. If we have a school where these children can feel successful, they will learn to see themselves as smart, capable and creative. They will flourish and become comfortable with themselves as learners.
What sets your school apart from others in the area?
Legacy’s tutoring program is top-notch. Every Legacy students receives 1:1 reading instruction daily. This means that every student gets to work on his or her area of weakness in a private tutoring session, which allows the children to go at their own pace without any pressure from their peers. This allows children with milder reading challenges to move through the curriculum quickly and children who need a lot of time to feel comfortable with digesting new information at a slower pace.
What is it like for you as an educator to see a student excel after they have previously struggled?
It is the reason I choose this as my career. Every year, I see children blossom. It is very rewarding; it shows you just how much any child can accomplish when given the right amount of support.
What do you enjoy the most about your job as founder?
I enjoy the creativity of designing a program that is effective for the students we serve. I also enjoy watching the expansion of Legacy and acquiring all the new knowledge I have gained from leading a growing school. There is never a dull moment, and I learn something new every day.
What drives you as a professional?
I love to learn, I love to create, and I love helping other people succeed. I have had to learn so many skills in order to be effective at this job. I have had to master the art of: bookkeeping, property management, leadership skills, and educational curriculum (just to name a few). This keeps me engaged and learning. Every day I get to watch people succeed, and that drives me to help and continuously improve our program even more.
How did you first become passionate about advocating for children?
There have been many times where I have had to speak out on behalf of a child. I discovered that advocacy serves our community, and it helps to inspire families that are struggling. I love working with children, and I believe that if I can see their true potential and eventual success, in spite of their current struggles, then eventually they will come to know what they are really capable of.
After graduating high school, you went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Towson University in speech-language pathology. What led you to chose this major?
I wanted to help others communicate and advocate for themselves and help make a difference in people’s daily lives.
You have a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, where you focused on juvenile issues and civil rights of children with disabilities. What made you want to go to law school?
I wanted to be a better advocate and attain the skills necessary to fight for the underdog. I have a passion for helping people make the most of their situation.
How has having a law degree helped you professionally?
Law school made mentally strong and taught me how to handle difficult and complex situations. As a result of my law degree, I have a background in tax issues, property rights, business formation, general liability, rights of people with disabilities and all of this has helped me build a successful school. I could not have asked for a more well-rounded, practical education.
For 12 years, you taught and tutored dyslexic children in reading and writing in different private school settings. What’s the best piece of advice you could give to parents with a child(ren) that are struggling academically in school?
Keep things in perspective, and remember to focus on your child’s strengths. Children with learning differences can thrive. Learning challenges are not insurmountable.
Through different organizations, you have trained teachers in multi-sensory language instructional techniques. Why is it important for teachers to use these methods to help children learn?
Not all children learn the same way. Students learn best (and you can reach more learners) if information is presented using different modalities. If information is presented visually, auditory, kinesthetically, and students can experience or interact with materials, they will be in a better position to learn and retain the material.
If you have some down time, what are you doing?
I am spending quality time with my own children. I especially like to cook and to spend time near the water and love to visit the beach.
— Gina Gallucci-White