The Orton Gillingham Center of Charleston Leadership
Catherine grew up just north of Providence, Rhode Island, and attended Rhode Island College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. After teaching in the Rhode Island public school system for a year, she knew she needed further training in how to effectively teach reading and writing to all her students. She continued her education at Providence College where she completed a Master of Education in literacy degree and became a certified reading specialist. Following her graduation from Providence College, Catherine taught a graduate course with a fellow colleague in their M.Ed. program for literacy. This experience allowed her to truly understand the discrepancy between different instructional methods that teachers in the state felt were “best practice” from their own varying teacher preparation courses in undergraduate school.
While researching different reading programs, she discovered the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading. Catherine applied to attend the OG Associate Level training at the Dunn Institute in Rhode Island and was impressed by this explicit and diagnostic approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling.
After completing her training, Catherine moved to the Lowcountry where she taught for four years as a 1:1 Orton-Gillingham practitioner in the Language Enrichment and Development Department and completed her Certified Level of Orton-Gillingham training at Trident Academy, a private school specializing in dyslexia. Catherine lives in Mt. Pleasant with her husband Brian and their four children.
Renee Byrd McCaslin
Co-Founder, Director of Education
Renee grew up just outside of Columbia, South Carolina and moved to the low county to attend the College of Charleston where she received a Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She went on to finish her Master of Education, specializing in divergent learning from Columbia College, with an endorsement for gifted and talented learning.
Renee began her career as a classroom teacher, teaching 1st and 5th grades in public and private schools. She transitioned from the classroom to work with the Accelerated School Project, based out of the University of Connecticut. While with the Project, she managed professional development, facilitated the national faculty, and administered a federal grant involving the implementation of data based decision making.
Renee’s path then took her back to her alma mater to the Center for Partnerships to Improve Education at the College of Charleston. During her time with the Center, she directed a middle-grades accelerated program for overage students. She had the privilege of fine tuning a "school within a school model” while working in partnership with local school districts to provide professional development and adjunct course work for teachers and leaders.
Upon discovering that her son was a dyslexic learner, Renee was shocked by the lack of resources, knowledge, and identification for these students. After doing her own research on best practices in dyslexia intervention, she began her training in the Orton-Gillingham Approach and is now an Associate with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Throughout her career, Renee has been blessed with many incredible opportunities but she is most excited about tying all of her professional and personal experiences together to bring educators, experts, and families together to impact our community.
Lindsey Propes Ballenger
Co- Founder, Director of Development
A native of South Carolina, Lindsey moved to Mount Pleasant after graduating from Clemson University. Her career began with the Christian Family Y in Downtown Charleston as the Assistant Director of Programs and Aquatics. She was asked to move into the position of Acting Executive Director to work with the board of directors to coordinate the closing of the 100 year old YWCA as they merged with The Greater Charleston YMCA. This dynamic experience allowed her to grow in organizational leadership and development and following the merger, Lindsey went to work for the College of Charleston Foundation in Institutional Advancement. In 2008, following her heart to International Missions, she became the Director of Development of Water Mission, a nonprofit clean water charity that builds sustainable clean water solutions in developing countries and disaster relief areas.
As her family continued to grow, so did the small business she and her husband Matt started in 2007, while both working full time. In 2010, Lindsey left nonprofit fundraising to spend more time with her three young daughters and to focus more time and energy into The Charleston Shucker Company. Over the last eight years, The Charleston Shucker Company has continued to grow and been featured in Southern Living Magazine and Top Chef on Bravo.
No organizational or administrative challenge has come close to that of advocating for a child with dyslexia in the state she loves. Lindsey has been involved with Decoding Dyslexia – South Carolina, a network of parent-led grassroots organizations concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education systems. Seeing the difference that Orton-Gillingham has made in her children’s lives, she has become passionate about early identification and making this research-based intervention more readily available in Charleston. She is an Associate with the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.
Sheila Costello M.S. F/AOGPE is an Accredited Training Fellow and former President of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Sheila obtained her Bachelor of Science in nutrition and biochemistry from the University of Surrey and her Master of Science in clinical chemistry from Northeastern University in Boston. After working in clinical chemistry and being a stay-at-home mom she first learned of OG when her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. Sheila did her initial Orton-Gillingham training at the Carroll School in Massachusetts where she subsequently worked as a tutor. Returning to Carroll after living and working in Australia, Shelia trained teachers at the certified level before becoming Director of the Garside Institute for Teacher Training in 2003.
After relocating to South Carolina she worked at Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant as Director of the Language Enrichment and Development where she tutored, administered the tutorial and outreach program, and trained teachers at the associate and certified levels. Sheila retired from Trident in 2015 but continues to train teachers in the Orton-Gillingham approach in Charleston and Savannah. She currently mentors three fellows in training and remains active with AOGPE committees and The Alliance for Accreditation and Certification of Dyslexia Specialists.
Fellow in Training (FIT)
Corbin Bettencourt obtained a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Science in early childhood education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction from Hood College. Her professional experience includes working as a facilitator in early childhood programs as well as directing them. Corbin taught pre-service teachers who were preparing to enter the field of early childhood education. She also facilitated learning as an elementary classroom teacher and directed a learning support center in a secondary school. Throughout those years, Corbin worked with children who struggled to read and spell. She is also the mother of sons who experienced learning difficulties due to dyslexia and executive functioning issues.
Corbin's experiences ultimately led to her present role as a language and reading therapist. Upon moving to Charleston in 2009, she began Orton-Gillingham training, obtaining Associate and then Certified Level membership in the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE). She was a language enrichment and development tutor at Trident Academy for four years and a tutor in Summer@Carroll at The Carroll School in Massachusetts for three summers. She continues to work independently with students struggling to read and is pursuing her Fellowship in AOGPE.
Jennie Garris received her Bachelor of Science in textile management from Clemson University and spent her early career in sales, telecommunications and merchandising. Her greatest joy is being a mom to her four boys.
Of Jennie’s four children, two are dyslexic learners. When she received the first dyslexia diagnosis after years of watching her child struggle, Jennie experienced the lack of knowledge surrounding dyslexia, and the need for greater awareness. She felt alone and unable to easily find the resources needed to catch up on lost time.
In addition to fighting for her own children’s literacy needs, she has become an advocate for those around the state. Jennie has spent the last three years advocating at the state level as a member of Decoding Dyslexia SC, testifying before the House of Representatives and meeting with members of Congress. She has also worked at the local level, creating more awareness within the Charleston County School District. She is also one of the founders of the Greater Charleston Area Dyslexia Parent Support Group.
Jennie remains passionate about helping other parents through the difficult and sometimes overwhelming journey of finding the right educational path and support plan for their child. Jennie is currently working towards her Associate level practitioner accreditation through the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and serves as the OGCC Parent Mentor.