November 6, 2006 — Dallas, TX (NSBA T&L Conference)–The Special Services Division for Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools has developed an innovative program to promote student-self advocacy for struggling learners using a newly developed curriculum guide and Don Johnston’s auto-biography, Building Wings: How I Made It Through School.

This initiative and the student learning evidence will be presented at the National School Boards Association Conference to school board members and administrators who want to create a similar student self-advocacy learning program. The program’s goal is to encourage struggling learners to be more independent and to be better prepared for high-stakes testing.

Fairfax Schools and Mr. Johnston will speak on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:30 am, Room # C154. Dr. Alice M. Farling, Assistant Superintendent for Fairfax County, VA said, “This initiative includes several tools and teaching components. It is intended to focus on students who struggle with reading and writing concepts. We selected Mr. Johnston’s book to empower students to identify their own learning barriers and to become self-advocates for their learning success. Building Wings reminds us that struggling learners sit in classrooms across America.”

Building Wings is a short biography written with age-appropriate text to respect the interests of older students while offering the equivalent of a 3rd grade reading level to bolster a successful reading experience. The story is sad, funny, engaging and inspirational and describes Mr. Johnston’s journey as a young boy who used behavioral problems to disguise his learning fears throughout elementary and middle school. His 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Tedesco, finally took notice and helped Don create new ways of thinking and applying knowledge. Don Johnston wrote Building Wings to encourage students to identify their unique learning styles and to help them build confidence to overcome their learning barriers. The book reminds teachers to watch for signs from students who struggle with learning concepts in the everyday classroom.

Jennifer Carr, Fairfax Special Services teacher presented Building Wings to students in two Fairfax County Schools writing camps for rising 5th and 8th graders this year. Ms. Carr said, “Students related to Don’s personal struggles and the interactions he had with his parents, friends and teachers. Their response was so compelling that we knew we had something special to motivate our students to take action. Our hope is to empower other administrators to create a similar student self-advocacy learning initiative for diverse students everywhere.”

About Don Johnston Don Johnston founded his educational company in 1980 based on a personal desire to deliver innovative instructional programs to improve the core literacy skills of diverse learners. He has dedicated his life to inspire children to become lifelong learners and is a true advocate for teachers who work to awaken the minds of students who think and learn in different ways. Don’s team of authors, curriculum specialists, educators and researchers have developed a series of age-appropriate and standards-aligned supplementary audio books, software, media and professional services based on validated literacy strategies and the latest brain-based research. Each program includes a well-developed implementation model to incorporate multiple instructional approaches, information-rich materials and innovative technologies.

In 2007, Don will schedule speaking engagements at schools to talk with educators, students and parents who serve diverse learners and is dedicated to making a significant difference in the future of our children for the 21st century. To order Building Wings, call 1-877-253-2892, email or visit

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