Remembering Karen Vickery

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Volume 8, Issue 4
December 2019

By Jana Jones

Karen Vickery was recognized as a mentor by colleagues and a pillar in the field of dyslexia. Her sphere of influence has been far-reaching and will continue to impact the lives of many through her encouragement and selfless dedication to serving others. 

A quote from O’Henry comes to mind as I write this introduction for Karen Vickery’s obituary: “No friendship is an accident.” I first met Karen in 1989.  At that time, in Texas, students in teacher education programs were required to do 30 hours of classroom observation.  I was assigned to the school where Karen taught classes of students with dyslexia. I watched her teaching only once, but I never forgot the impact of that hour-long observationI will never believe it was an accident.  

I ended up teaching 4th grade and immediately realized I had no idea how to teach a child who couldn’t readbut I remembered who could. I called Karen and begged to be trained to teach the same way had watched her teach. I had no idea I had just hooked myself up with a force of nature.   

I’ve watched Karen in a myriad of leadership positions in our professional organizations—the International Multisensory Structured Language Educational Council (IMSLEC)the Alliance for Certification and Accreditation, Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA), and the ALTA Foundation.  Karen always looked for the positive in people and situations. She was a mentor to many around her whom she never even realized she was mentoring. Those she thought of as colleagues consistently looked to her for calm guidance and direction. I never saw her react to situations with anything but calm and well-thought out responses. Never did she become a part of any chaos around her. Leadership for Karen was an honornever for her own benefit.  She lived to serve these organizations because she knew the ultimate beneficiaries were the children with dyslexia who would benefit from teaching and therapy that met the highest standards of each organization.   

Karen become a Certified Academic Language Therapist in 1982 and a Qualified Instructor in 1985. She worked for Greenville Independent School District in Greenville, Texas as the Chapter I Reading Teacher from 1982-1995 and as the Dyslexia Coordinator from 1995-2001. After “officially” retiring in 2001, she continued to work as Greenville’s 504 District Coordinator, Reading Coordinator for Special Programs, and Dyslexia Coordinator until 2013. Beginning in 2001, she served as director of the Learning Therapy Program at Southern Methodist University—once again in the classroom and teaching how to serve and most effectively teach students with dyslexia.  

Karen was a guest speaker for at least 117 conference and professional events; published curricula for universities and public schools; and developed a dyslexia manual for Greenville Independent School District that continues to be used as a model for many Texas school districts. In 1987, her article, “Multisensory Teaching Approach for Reading, Spelling, and Handwriting, Orton-Gillingham Based Curriculum, in a Public  School Setting,”  a report of results of a four-year study of reading and spelling in both remedial and nonremedial classes in a public school, was published in the professional journal of The International Dyslexia Association, Annals of Dyslexia. She was appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve on a Dyslexia Interim Study Committee and served on numerous committees to update the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, Procedures Concerning Dyslexia and Related Disorders 

A past president of IMSLEC, Karen received an IMSLEC Innovator Award for Outstanding Educator in a University in 2008, and she received the Etoile DuBard Award of Excellence from IMSLEC in 2015. Her influence has been far-reaching. Professional colleagues and friends alike recognized her dedication to and compassion for the dyslexic learner and her high standards of professionalism. Those fortunate enough to watch her in action expressed deep admiration for her wisdom and grace. All who knew Karen loved and respected her. A verse in Flowers of Friendship (Edward Hyde1st Earl of Clarendon) portrays Karen, “A friend hath the skill and observation of the best physician; the diligence and vigilance of the best nurse; and the tenderness and patience of the best mother.” 

A quote from Winnie the Pooh illustrates how Karen made us feel: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” Karen will be deeply missed by students and colleagues who recognized her as a leader, mentor, and friend. 

For further information, please follow this link to Karen’s obituary:

Jana Jones is the Interim Director of the Learning Therapy Program at Southern Methodist University and Executive Director for the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC). Jana worked with Karen in Greenville, TX Independent School District and at Southern Methodist University in the Learning Therapy Program.  

Copyright © 2019 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). Opinions expressed in The Examiner and/or via links do not necessarily reflect those of IDA.