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Posted February 6, 2014

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Prestigious Award Goes to APS Special Education Director

Dr. Anne Tafoya, who has spent nearly three decades as an educator, is being recognized for her support of students with learning disabilities in reading, writing and dyslexia.

Dr. Anne Tafoya, executive director of the APS Special Education Department, has been selected to receive the Jane Bluemenfeld Community Services Award by the Southwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. This annual award recognizes an outstanding person in our community who teaches and supports students with learning disabilities in reading, writing and dyslexia.

This is a tremendous honor as Dr. Jane Bluemenfeld was the first special education teacher in the Albuquerque Public Schools and a lifelong advocate for students with disabilities. Her efforts ultimately led to the founding of the Southwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association in 1985.

Dr. Tafoya began her 28-year career as an elementary special education teacher. She later became a head teacher, diagnostician and administrator with the Special Education Department.

While working as the Coordinator for ESY services, Dr. Tafoya saw that most students with learning disabilities truly struggled with reading skills and wanted to find a way to help. At that time, dyslexia was not a term widely used to describe students with a language-based learning disability.

Following a significant amount of research, Dr. Tafoya discovered the importance of providing explicit, systematic, sequential, multi-sensory instruction to remediate reading problems. As an administrator, she invited an expert in reading acquisition to train some of her staff along with herself in this proven method. Each member taught a practicum student for a year while receiving their own explicit instruction on how to teach the program.

After seeing the significant academic gains in reading achieved by these students, and the knowledge of explicit reading instruction she and her team experienced, Dr. Tafoya approached her supervisor and asked that a position be created to oversee reading instruction for learning disabled students. She became the administrator for the Reading and Learning Disabilities Department, overseeing the small team of dedicated staff who themselves became national trainers and experts in the area of reading.

Over the next 13 years, the Reading Department, with the continued support and dedication from Dr. Tafoya, began providing teachers the much needed training and tools needed to strengthen their professional knowledge of reading to help students who had not responded to traditional reading instruction.

As Dr. Tafoya moved forward and became the executive director of special education, her passion and dedication remained steadfast in her belief that students with dyslexia be provided the opportunity to learn to read. She continues to provide the budget, training, support, and tools for APS teachers to effectively  teach these students.

The department she created has since changed titles and most recently became the Reading, Writing, and Math Services Department under the Special Education Department. Each year hundreds of teachers receive training, materials and support from the department. The department has been an ongoing force that is dedicated under her leadership to helping students with a learning disability in reading, usually dyslexia, which also affects writing skills and those with a learning disability in math, usually dyscalculia or in some way affected by a student’s dyslexia.

Literally thousands of teachers have benefited under her direction, having received training, materials, and support they did not receive as teacher candidates in college. In addition,  thousands of students in APS have had the opportunity to learn to read despite their disability  and go on to be successful in college and chosen careers because of the dedication of this incredible educator.

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