by Maria Pauluselli
November 29, 2023
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This quote from Maya Angelou is what comes to my mind when I think about the pioneering work of my colleague, Diane Reott. It was her experience as a mother that serendipitously connected her with some other change agents in the state of PA. Her son, Matt, has dyslexia. Hearing him tell her that he was “the stupidest kid” in his class, and then receiving rejections from every school she reached out to in the hope of finding a place where Matt could learn and grow, led her to create the Pennsylvania Dyslexia Literacy Coalition (PADLC). Adversity caused Diane to take action. Her work led to the state legislature’s adoption of House Bill 198. This law exists to ensure early identification of dyslexia and other reading issues and has been the catalyst for much-needed teacher training and educational reform across the Commonwealth.
Early on, Diane realized in her journey to educate Matt that only when parents of children who were struggling knew something or someone could they secure services for their child. This unacceptable reality led her to host parent group meetings in local districts, speak at other disability group meetings, and become active on the PBIDA board. In 2013, Diane and Nanie Flaherty, PBIDA Board President and Director of the Bryn Mawr Child Study Institute, had the opportunity to attend the Literate Nation Boot Camp at Yale’s Haskins Lab in Connecticut representing Pennsylvania. Diane became the PA state representative of Literate Nation. Also in 2013, at the annual PBIDA conference, Diane was able to host a lunch with Senator Mike Folmer, Chair of PA Senate Education Committee, and Reid Lyon, a pioneer in the evidence-based approach to reading instruction, to discuss literacy in PA. Senator Folmer committed his staff to assist Diane and her team and a group from the PA Department of Education to hash out acceptable language for legislation regarding literacy.
For most of 2014, the PADLC team worked to finalize the legislative language of the Dyslexia Pilot and on June 16, 2014, Governor Tom Corbett signed into law House Bill 198, which became Act 69, 2014, The Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot. (The Pilot officially began in the 2015-2016 school year.) Diane did not stop here; she and her colleague Nancy Scharff signed on to the Read By 4thInitiative in Philadelphia. They convinced leadership of the importance of adding a Teacher Preparation tier, one of the first states to add this to the Initiative. Together they worked to increase teacher training by visiting colleges and universities across the state as part of the Read By 4th push to promote the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards. In 2015, they partnered with Drexel University to host an overview for Schools of Education on the IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards with Judith Birsh, author of the bestselling textbook Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, and another in 2019 with Temple University and the journalist Emily Hanford from American Public Media (APM) Reports. Diane spoke at various conferences, authored articles, worked on advisory teams, and consulted with the highest levels of decision makers in PA and other states, always connecting with other committed professionals who shared her desire to change the way students with dyslexia are educated. “Never in a silo” was a term Diane used to describe her work over the years, and there are too many names to mention, but in her relentless pursuit of change, she connected with anyone she could. I think Diane had real insight into the sentiment shared by Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
In 2018 Diane was appointed the first Executive Director of PBIDA. She continued her commitment to ongoing partnerships within IDA, Temple University, the Tremaine Foundation, Read By 4th, and others. Never in a silo.
It was the Dyslexia Pilot that got the PA Department of Education and the PA Training and Technical Assistance Network moving in the right direction with the Science of Reading. Eight school districts across the state participated and served as models for other schools. Diane helped lead this Pilot initiative wisely; she understood the value of collective impact, a network of individuals and organizations working together to advance equity, and she has modeled for us all just what can be accomplished as a unified front. Diane Reott began such important work for Pennsylvania families; we must carry on, always with her collaborative spirit: Never in a silo.
The Hoopes Award was established in 2003 to honor Dr. Janet L. Hoopes, the first recipient of the award, a founding PBIDA Board Member and its first office manager, Professor at Bryn Mawr College, and co-founder of Hill Top Preparatory School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. The Hoopes Award is presented at PBIDA’s Annual Fall Conference to an individual or individuals in Pennsylvania or Delaware who have made a significant contribution to the education and lives of those with learning differences. Congratulations to Diane Reott, the 2023 Recipient of the Hoopes Award.
Maria Paluselli, author of this article, is a member of the PBIDA Board of Directors and serves as the board’s recording secretary.
The Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association is pleased to present a forum for information to benefit its constituents. It is IDA’s policy to not recommend or endorse any specific program, product, institution, company, or instructional material, noting that there are a number of such that present the critical components of instruction as defined by IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading. Any program, product, institution, company, or instructional material carrying the IDA Accredited seal meets the IDA Standards.