Rishel’s foray into the eduation world came at the age of 21 when she began her first teaching job, fresh from earning her degree from Rowan University, the same place she would later return for two additional Master’s degrees.
Trained in special education and speech correction, she worked with primary age students with speech and language delays, as well as learning differences. Throughout her career, she worked as a speech and language specialist, a learning consultant with school districts, a special education supervisor, and elementary school principal/superintendent.
It was during her time as a classroom teacher that she first had the opportunity to take a class in Orton-Gillingham. Right away, she found what she had been searching for, she said.
“I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in special education, and I had never seen anything like this taught in teacher preparation programs, or at the college level,” she said. “They just weren’t including this kind of information and it felt like it was needed.”
Prior to her first Orton-Gillingham training, Rishel said she’d “cobbled” together her own version of multi-layered literacy instruction to use among her students, but was thrilled to see it already packaged together in OG.
“It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve been trying to do; it’s already done,'” Rishel said.
After that, she said she knew that she would want to seek out opportunities to teach Orton-Gillingham herself someday. Not only did she want to continue to have a positive influence in education and literacy, but Rishel said she also could see that more of an investment needed to be made in new teachers, especially when it came to their ability to teach students to read.
During her time as an administrator, she often saw that newly minted teachers had little literacy instruction.
“When I would interview teachers for a teaching position…I would always say to them, ‘What do you know about teaching reading and spelling?'” Rishel said. “For many of them, what they knew was just what they did in student teaching. Other than that, they didn’t really have a lot of background in how the language worked.”
“It started to form the idea in the back of my mind that when I was ready to retire from public ed, that this is actually what I would want to do — to go out and take these trainings to teachers and give them the [knowledge] because colleges aren’t doing it.”
Almost immediately after retiring in the summer of 2010, Rishel discovered the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education and became trained in IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham. She fell in love, and by December of that year, was leading her own trainings.
Now eight years in, Rishel is a member of the Leadership Team, helping train new instructors and providing support to trainers in the field, and said she’s loving it more than ever.
Not only does she relish the work because she frequently travels to meet new people, but she’s formed long-term relationships with multiple networks of parents, educators, administrators and school districts across the country, always making herself available to help an IMSE graduate.
From public speaking, to using her expertise in speech, to being silly and theatric to illustrate a point, Rishel said being a trainer has given her the opportunity to combine some of the best aspects of her personal and professional backgrounds.
“It’s…the chance for me to do things that I’m passionate about,” she said. “To have the chance to be involved with something that’s really a quality presentation that really has the ability to change lives, that’s huge.”
In the last eight years, Rishel’s work with IMSE has taken her on adventures around the world. She’s trained in schools halfway around the globe, using IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham to help a diverse array of students achieve everything from improved spelling and auditory skills, to learning English.
Her work as an instructor has also taken her on adventures here in the United States. When the Wyoming Department of Corrections reached out to IMSE to see if it had any trainers who could do a combination of the comprehensive and advanced training with a focus on adult learners for an inmate GED program, Rishel got the call. She spent a week out West, training tutors on tactics that improved not only the inmates’ overall literacy skills, but confidence and self-worth as well.
“The teachers working with the inmates were really passionate about what they did; they had a lot of respect for their students,” Rishel said of the tutors. “And they really wanted to see [the inmates] gaining skills and pass the GED and have a chance at something better than where they were at.”
As an educator, Rishel extends that same compassion and respect to the teachers she works with during her normal training courses. For her, being able to mentor and spend so much time among educators, many of whom she sees on more than one occasion, is both an important responsibility and a fun perk of the job, Rishel said. Having worked with countless teachers over the years, who then go on to teach many students each, Rishel said she likes knowing she’s making a positive difference in the lives of so many, especially when it comes to a subject as critical as literacy.
Over the years, Rishel said she’s seen how IMSE’s Orton-Gillingham has benefited too many teachers and students to count, and in a multitude of different ways. In addition to the creativity she sees educators infusing into their IMSE training, Rishel said she’s noticed a few other takeaways that always seem to surprise teachers, particularly how the training bolsters spelling and syllable division.
Overall, Rishel said becoming a trainer with IMSE has been an excellent and enriching post-retirement career.
“That’s why I stepped out of the class and became a supervisor, to impact more lives,” she said. “This may be one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Learn more about training with the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education.