Symbols Tutor Profile Series: Melanie (Coquitlam)

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. This week, we meet Melanie, who has been working at the Symbols Multisensory Learning Centre in Coquitlam since 2013.

Melanie’s Crossword


  1. A roast you can drink!
  2. Start an essay or a friendship with one of these.


  1. April showers bring these in the subsequent month.
  2. To get this flavour, you’ll need orchids.



Macaroons and a Cactus

The macaroons at Coffee+Vanilla are every colour of the rainbow. Just steps away from Symbols’ Coquitlam location, we’re enjoying a lovely mid-morning snack. I have a lot of questions for Melanie. In her five years as a Symbols tutor, she has accumulated wisdom and insights and created wonderful resources for students. Perhaps the most heartwarming of these are her colouring pages, which she draws for her students and then generously shares with others in the centre, so that they too can enjoy her creativity and humour.

LYDIA: Take me back to how it all started. What led you to Symbols?

MELANIE: I think I’ve always been a teacher at heart. Actually, there were even people in high school who would think I was one of the teachers! After high school, I started off studying psychology and then added English as a second major. There are just so many routes into teaching and studying what I did led me to one-to-one tutoring.

LYDIA: Teaching students who have been struggling at school can pose some unique challenges. How do you help them regain their confidence and enthusiasm?

MELANIE: I had some challenges myself when I was in school, so I understand what they’re going through. I think this helps me to stay empathetic and flexible in my teaching methods. Working at Symbols is such a great fit for this, because we’re using multisensory and Orton-Gillingham-based teaching. I have students who used to refuse to read and now they’re bookworms, reading Harry Potter!

LYDIA: That’s such a valuable experience to bring to your teaching.

MELANIE: Everyone is a bookworm – we just have to find the right books. No one likes doing something hard. Once we help them get past the initial hurdle, then they can find something they like to read. One student loves to read about reptiles!

LYDIA: That must be incredibly rewarding.

MELANIE: The best feedback is when I hear that they love coming to Symbols and don’t hate school anymore. That’s really what we want for them, when it all clicks and everything makes sense and they’re not upset and they’re happy to be learning.

Macaroons and coffee devoured, we stroll over to Artisan Gifts & Flowers. I ask Melanie about how she teaches writing.

MELANIE: It’s amazing how much progress students can make by just becoming aware of ways to make their writing more engaging. Like using sensory details – how things looked or smelled or felt in the story they’re telling. That makes you want to know what happens next. It helps so much to find the good and the positive. Some of the student really need to hear positive feedback and it gives them the motivation they need.

Shopping for a succulent

We walk around, investigating all the plant displays. Melanie falls in love with a cactus and decides there and then to introduce it to the small but growing collection of plants on her windowsill at Symbols.

LYDIA: Is there something you’ve learned at Symbols that you wish you had known before or maybe didn’t expect?

MELANIE: I wish I had had a Symbols tutor growing up! All of the cool tricks and strategies that we teach would have been so valuable – even for my university level courses! I do a lot of research to help each student – I try to us my strength as a researcher to improve my teaching.

In the end, it is a delightful miniature succulent that leaves the store with us – and not the flowers in our crossword. Inquisitive visitors to Symbols’ Coquitlam location might even be lucky enough catch a glimpse of it enjoying the sunshine behind Melanie’s desk. Thank you to Melanie for an enlightening, inspiring, and macaroon-filled morning!

Rob Wahl