Toni Bushnell joined DVFS in 2018 as one of our Lead teachers in the Lower School Program. Toni is an experienced teacher with 27 years total teaching experience – all of which she has spent working with student who learn differently. Toni first connected with DVFS about 14 years ago when she was drawn to the school’s Orton-Gillingham reading program. It has been a long time coming, but Toni is now officially part of the DVFS family.
Q: What do you like about DVFS? What drew you to DV?
About 14 years ago I was drawn to DVFS because of the Orton-Gillingham reading program. At the time I taught in an after-school program, tutored children who struggled with reading, and taught adults to read. I learned about Orton-Gillingham and took the course at DVFS. I became a reading tutor in the summer program and used my newfound skills to teach ALL my students everywhere. I was happily overwhelmed by my students' success. I knew then, if I ever had the opportunity, I would definitely teach at DVFS.
Q: How is DVFS different than other schools where you have taught?
DVFS is specifically designed for students with language based learning differences and those who require smaller class sizes. It provides a safe, productive learning environment that supports teaching and facilitates learning. It is a Quaker school that embraces and follows Quaker testimonies and tradition. Administrators are aware of student backgrounds and needs, and support teachers in a positive, constructive manner that facilitates a sense of community.
Q: What is your vision for your role as part of the DVFS community?
It is my ambition to facilitate students’ learning and discovery through teamwork and collaboration with co-teachers, faculty, administrators, and parents. It is my goal to encourage, inspire, and provide all children the self-assurance, self-awareness, and skills needed to learn how to learn and become successful students.
Q: How do you help students with learning differences learn?
As a teacher of children with learning differences I focus on students' strengths, help build self awareness and self confidence, and teach self advocacy, while providing meaningful, hands on, multi-sensory, scaffolded, structured instruction. A conscious effort is made to be attuned to students’ individual needs, self-concept, motivation, strengths, interests, learning styles, peer relationships, and family conditions. Consequently, a deliberate effort is made to recognize practices, policies, regulations, activities, and curriculum that may have to be adapted to meet the individual needs of each child. A positive self-attitude about learning and the individual capacity to learn is promoted. Excitement and enthusiasm are fostered as students acquire the skills in specific areas required to meet curriculum standards, guidelines, and benchmarks. As a result, children develop the skills, self-confidence, eagerness, and motivation necessary to become successful, confident learners.
Q: What is a unique experience, talent or interest that you bring to your classroom to help shape the learning experience of your students?
I am the parent of a 21 year old college student who has ADHD. I taught at Stratford Friends School for over 10 years, where I was an elementary school teacher, Lead Middle School Teacher, and taught 7th and 8th grade English/Language Arts, History, and Math. I served as Director of Stratford Friends School Summer Program, Summer School Curriculum Coordinator, and as a private tutor contracted by the School Districts of Philadelphia, Upper Darby, and Haverford. I taught first and second grade ESL in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where I taught Reading, Math, Social Studies, and Science, and specialized in teaching English to non-native speaking students with language based learning differences. I was a volunteer Presenter and Panel Discussion Participant with the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (PBIDA), where I served as a presenter/facilitator of workshops and participant in Q & A panel discussions for teachers, college students, psychologists, guidance counselors, behavioral and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, other professionals, and parents, which simulate what it is like to be a student/child with dyslexia and other language based learning differences.
Q: In your experience, what sets DVFS students apart?
DVFS offers students a traditional school setting that includes the arts, sports, clubs, and other enrichment activities which recognize, encourage, and build on students strengths and interests, and one that does not solely focus on their academic weaknesses and learning differences.
Q: What do you like to do when you're not at DV?
I love to spend time with my family and chillaxing with friends. I am a member of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting for Worship, where I participate on several committees and teach First Day School. I enjoy hiking, walking, and dancing (when my knee is healed). I tutor students and adults in reading, and I am on the board of FSP Against Bullying, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of bullying in schools, the workplace and by organizations based on race, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, learning ability, and age.