The Shadow Project Celebrates 15 Years

To celebrate 15 years of changing lives for children with learning challenges, KGW joins The Shadow Project in a Sitton Elementary Classroom.

New Program Manager for Shadow

New Program Manager for Shadow

Sharon Juenemann first heard of The Shadow Project when her son came home from school two years ago with Pokemon cards that he had earned from his teacher for setting and achieving goals in the classroom.

“He still talks about earning Shadow Bucks, and selecting the cards at the Shadow Store,” said Sharon, Shadow’s new program manager, who began early March. “At the time, I hadn’t heard of Shadow, but I did a little research, and liked what I learned.

“I am thrilled to bring to Shadow my passion for changing educational systems so they truly benefit all children, and decades of experience in supporting underserved young people.”

Sharon was longtime program director for Mt. Hood Community College’s federal prep and access grant (TRIO) for low-income students seeking higher education. Most recently, she was interim director of TRIO at Portland Community College.

Sharon has a master of arts in adult education from Oregon State University, and a bachelor of arts in English from Lewis & Clark College. She has 20 years teaching experience including English as a Second Language for Non-Native Speakers, instructional Spanish, and EvenStart Family Literacy.

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Building the Confidence to Read Aloud

Building the Confidence to Read Aloud

For many children with learning challenges like dyslexia, who are one- to three grade levels behind in reading, the idea of sharing a book aloud is fraught with anxiety. Finding the courage to overcome the fear of reading can be a battle.

“I don’t like reading because I’m not good at it,” says fifth grader Kaleah.

But not on Shadow Day.

At Sitton School in North Portland, the kids in Mandee Bish’s classroom have picked out their favorite books to share with a new friend—a black and white poodle named Molly, who is there to listen to their reading.

Educators say that dogs make great reading partners because they can gently nudge students to keep going, or strategically place a paw to offer support and enhance focus. Dogs also have a calming effect that can reduce anxiety, and their quiet presence boosts confidence, courage … and reading comprehension.

Indeed, Molly quietly lays on her blanket and sets her chin on the kids’ legs, closing her eyes to the soft sound of the students’ reading. No matter that their words are sometimes halting. No matter that they miss some words or mix up letters. Molly patiently listens, and the kids finish their books and forget for a moment their struggles with reading.

“That was so fun!” says Kaleah. “I can’t wait to read again!”

Shadow Day is an annual event to honor Shadow, a dog born on Valentine’s Day, who is the inspiration behind the nonprofit Shadow Project. The Shadow Project arranged for Molly’s visit in collaboration with Columbia River Pet Partners to celebrate its 15th anniversary in Portland Public schools, and the fourth year in the district’s innovative, collaborative Read Together initiative, which is focused on literacy in underserved schools.

“Year after year, two-thirds of Oregon children with disabilities miss the critical benchmark of third grade reading proficiency that predicts high school graduation,” says Shadow Project Founder and Executive Director Christy Scattarella. “If our community is truly committed to increasing graduation rates, we urgently need to address the overlooked one in eight children who learn differently. Providing students with learning disabilities access to the tools they need to achieve is critical.”

The Shadow Project began in two classrooms in Duniway School, becoming a 501(3) organization in 2003. Since then, Shadow has fostered success for more than 11,000 Portland children with learning challenges.

“I am so grateful to The Shadow Project for their vision and leadership in our schools,” says Bish. “They are integral to our program of serving students with more intensive learning and behavior support needs.”

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Goal Setting for Courage

Goal Setting for Courage

A Duniway school value is courage, and seven-year-old Naomi has shown great strides this year, using The Shadow Project to set and achieve goals.

Sharing with the class, taking turns talking with a friend, reading out loud in front of a group, listening as others read, and raising your hand are all ways to show courage in second grade at Duniway.

Because Naomi has been identified as needing to work on her social skills, Learning Center Teacher Erica Warren and Classroom Teacher Julie Aquilizan use The Shadow Project’s innovative goal setting program to help Naomi set and achieve her goal of exhibiting courage.

With her eye on a bright pink squishy beanbag chair from the Shadow Store, Naomi steadily earned Shadow Bucks every time she completed a skill for her efforts on courage, as well as completing work in the Learning Center. It took her two months, but she persevered, saving $100 Shadow Bucks, for her special chair.

“It was so motivating,” said Erica. “We created concrete ways Naomi can be courageous and she’s exhibited many of those skills already. We are so proud of how hard she is working.”

The Shadow Project began in two Duniway classrooms. Now in its 15th year, Shadow has helped foster success for more than 11,000 children.

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Shadow Volunteer Touts Audiobooks

Shadow Volunteer Touts Audiobooks

University of Portland Junior Margaret Ehrich wishes she’d had audiobooks specially designed for kids with learning disabilities when she was in elementary school. Dyslexic, with ADHD, Margaret struggled to read and did not always feel supported in school.

“I felt very frustrated when teachers would pull me aside or had me go to a special place to read,” said Margaret.

Supporting kids with learning challenges is one reason why Margaret elected to volunteer at The Shadow Project this fall. Margaret worked one-on-one with students at Woodmere Elementary to select and download books in which they were interested, and then helped them navigate the text with their ears and eyes.

“The Learning Ally audiobooks that The Shadow Project uses for its reading coaching have a nice range of titles to choose from and you can pick different fonts and type sizes and then highlight them, which is great,” said Margaret. “I didn’t get Learning Ally until my junior year of high school. I wish I’d had Learning Ally at the elementary level.”

Margaret wants kids to know that “technology is their friend.” She said: “Being dyslexic doesn’t mean you can’t do the work. Learning Ally meets students where they are. It helps with self-sufficiency, and it shows other people that students with learning challenges are still capable of reading, rather than just being read to.

“I’ve learned that schools now are more open to learning differences,” said Margaret, who is majoring in math and, with an education minor, hopes to become a physics teacher. “School is more accessible to students with learning challenges than when I was in school.

“I think audiobooks mixed with sensory tools is especially good,” Margaret added. “I can tell the kids are more calm when they squeeze handheld fidgets while they’re reading.”

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