Symbols Tutor Profile Series: Sam (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. To introduce you to our team and to celebrate each tutor’s unique contribution to the work we do, we are excited to announce the Symbols Tutor Profile Series!

Over the next few weeks, we will be publishing interviews with the tutors at our three centres. Each tutor will receive a crossword puzzle with clues about the theme of the interview. This week, we meet Sam, who works at the Symbols Multisensory Learning Centre in Vancouver.

Sam’s Crossword

Sam’s Crossword


  1. Portmanteau, please! Over easy at noon.
  2. Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat as needed.


  1. Use this to cross water and go under a bridge.
  2. There’s enough for everyone!


A boat and some eggs

“A boat?” Sam is understandably suspicious. I’ve asked her to meet me in Vancouver’s West End after sending her a crossword to solve. “You said the clues would tell me what we’d be doing today. I thought this was going to be an interview!”

Sam enjoying the view

Minutes later, we are gazing out at the Granville Bridge from the promised boat. False Creek Ferries provided the perfect setting for our first question:

LYDIA: First things first. As a member of the Vancouver Symbols team, you teach language arts lessons based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. Do any of the words in our crossword ever feature in your lessons?

SAM: Definitely. I have in fact taught “boat” many times – probably even this week! Learning to read words with two vowels right next to each other gives the students a huge confidence boost. It’s so much fun to see the words on a page suddenly make sense to kids who have been struggling to read. Did you take us on a boat ride just to set up that question?!

Sam joined the Vancouver team in 2017 and makes the most of Symbols’ multisensory lesson format. She tells me that many of her students particularly enjoy activities that use texture and movement to help them learn.

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

SAM: Well, I lived in Ireland for many years and the kids love to hear about real experiences. When we’re learning the names of countries, it means so much more if someone they know has actually been there. So anywhere I’ve gone to on vacation, like England or the Czech Republic, is so much more relatable to them.

LYDIA: That’s great! And what have you learned since you’ve been teaching at Symbols?

SAM: There’s so much… If I have to pick one thing, it’s how applicable the techniques we use for language arts students are with my math students. The tactile and kinesthetic activities we do with our standard Orton-Gillingham students are just amazing for teaching math. I didn’t think multiplication could jump off the page – literally!

Our next stop is brunch. We have a corner table at Paul’s Omelettery and we’re enjoying the cozy atmosphere. As our coffee and eggs arrive, I ask Sam the big question of the day:

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

SAM: When I was in school, I remember how frustrating it was when we’d be told we got something wrong, but then weren’t told how to improve or what to change. And we were only ever shown one way to do something. There might only be one right answer to a question, but there are loads of ways to explain how to get to it. I challenge the kids I teach to take the path to the answer that’s right for them and we don’t give up, because I know they can do it. And I want them to know they can do it. I always ask them whether they’re sure they got something right, no matter what they’ve done. That way, they start to see that they can say, “Yes!” and be confident about getting the answer right. If we only question them when they’ve made a mistake, they never get to stand up for their answers. They’re doing such a great job and I want them to know that.

Sam shared her morning to make this post possible and shared her experiences and a really great brunch into the bargain. Thank you, Sam!

Rob Wahl