Spotlight on Hollis Dannaham
Hollis Dannaham’s mission is to empower teachers to understand their students and effectively improve student success. It is a professional drive rooted in personal experience.
“I’m extremely passionate about bringing joy back into learning, especially for kids with learning disabilities or with special needs because I was one of those students,” she says.
Ms. Dannaham, who leads workshops focused on understanding learning differences and special education, was diagnosed with a learning disability in the sixth grade. Her parents were told she should be on a vocational track. They gave her a choice, though, and she opted to pursue academics. She now holds two master’s degrees.
“So I proved the professionals wrong, and that has created a passion in me for empowering the most children possible,” she says.
A 35-year veteran educator, Ms. Dannaham’s experience ranges from a special education teacher in day treatment, to a Brooklyn charter school, where she was director of academic intervention, to an alternative high school she started for at-risk kids. Trained in the neuro-developmental underpinnings of learning, she became a learning specialist “so I can pinpoint exactly what’s getting in the way so I can target the instruction to really meet the needs of the individual child.”
For the past seven years she has worked with teachers on professional development, both as a workshop facilitator and as an embedded coach in schools.
Ms. Dannaham says it is important to her that teachers who attend her workshops find them relevant and valuable. She designs them to be interactive, with activities and simulations designed to show them the perspective of students with disabilities and to walk away with a plethora of strategies.
“I want them to feel empowered so that they can walk back into their classroom and understand a child in maybe a new way and to then have targeted strategies to put into place to move that student forward,” she said.