Symbols Tutor Profile: Katharine (Vancouver)

At Symbols, we are fortunate to have a team of dedicated and talented tutors teaching one-to-one multisensory lessons based on the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach. The Symbols Tutor Profile Series is an opportunity for us to introduce you to our team and celebrate each tutor’s unique contribution to the work we do. In preparation, each tutor receives a crossword puzzle with clues about the theme of the interview. Today, we meet Katharine, who has been working at the Symbols Multisensory Learning Centre in Vancouver since early 2018.

katharine symbols crossword


  1. Where does she sell seashells? Is it on the land between the high- and low-tide marks?
  2. Expressionist, impressionist, realist, surrealist, and hard to define.


  1. Twenty of these make a game.
  2. Was once a bean, but now a truffle.





Learning with cats

It’s a sunny summer afternoon and Katharine and I find ourselves slumped lazily on a bench near the Foreshore Walk that runs along the entrance to Granville Island. Our snacks, so carefully selected in the air-conditioned shade of Chocolate Arts Cafe, are melting in our hands.

LYDIA: Do any of the words in our crossword ever feature in your lessons? I have a feeling I know what you’re going to say…

KATHARINE: I can’t imagine why! I love chocolate and I definitely mention it in my lessons. In fact, when I’m getting to know a new student, I always end up admitting that I have a chocolate obsession.

LYDIA: That’s a very important fact about you they should obviously be made aware of!

KATHARINE: But then some children remind me that chocolate isn’t a real food, but a treat, so I have to revise my answer. Oh and I have definitely taught “chocolate” as a sight word!

LYDIA: As a member of the Vancouver Symbols team, you teach language arts lessons based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. Teaching students who have been struggling at school can pose some unique challenges. How do you help them regain their confidence and enthusiasm?

Katharine with a friend she met while on vacation in Italy

KATHARINE: I try to make it as fun and interactive as possible. Hopefully that way they’re not worrying too much about learning and remembering everything. They can end up absorbed in the game we’re playing, rather than feeling anxious about the long-term implications of learning the lesson. I also find that it helps to be lighthearted and remind them that everybody struggles with something, whether academic or not. It’s universal to have something you struggle with or dislike and as long as you keep your chin up and keep working, you will improve and things will get better.

LYDIA: We should all remind ourselves of that a bit more often. Is there something you’ve learned at Symbols that you wish you had known before or maybe didn’t expect?

KATHARINE: I’ve realized how much so many kids long to learn and are excited to learn – even in subjects that challenge them. We might expect kids who are struggling to lack curiosity, but they are genuinely interested and keen to learn. It’s a relief to be taught that and a really fun surprise!

The tide is very low and the boats docked in the marina are crowded together. Tourists walk past, taking pictures of the water, the seawall, and the underside of the Granville Bridge. We slowly shuffle away from our bench and make our way towards the many little art studios and galleries nearby, popping into each and admiring sculptures, paintings, and textiles.

LYDIA: What life experiences have you drawn upon in your teaching at Symbols? Anything you might not have expected would come in useful?

KATHARINE: Some of my happiest memories are of the very unique preschool I went to when I was little. It was a really tiny operation run by an elderly woman right in her home. There were only three children attending, but with nine cats living in the house. There really were more cats than children! It was a fun place to learn and it filled me with curiosity. I also remember the feeling of accomplishment I would get when I could trace over the letters of my name. It was like magic to see the letters becoming words, words becoming stories, and the stories coming alive. I don’t have nine cats, but I want to leave kids with same sense of wonder and accomplishment I got from being in a fun and encouraging learning environment.

Thank you, Katharine, for spending a chocolatey afternoon in the sun and sharing wonderful stories and insights with us!

Rob Wahl