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Shelton Valedictorian Charles Mitts plans to study Business at Indiana University.

Shelton, the largest independent school for students with learning differences, honored the Class of 2024 at graduation on Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. on the Shelton football field. 

Shelton Executive Director Suzanne Stell told the graduates, "We celebrate you, your commitment, the community you have built, your resilience and your persistence." Graduation speaker Chase Miller (Shelton Class of 2014), a Principal at NAI Robert Lynn, told the graduates to "embrace the adventure, have a strong work ethic and work through adversity.

Valedictorian Charles Mitts, who started at Shelton School in the sixth grade, spoke at the graduation about the passion and joy of learning. Charles will major in Business at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Shelton, please accept my gratitude,” Charles said in the graduation program. “The teachers, classmates and friends helped me grow into a more authentic version of myself during my time in high school and always maintained a positive, enjoyable atmosphere both inside and outside the classroom."

Salutatorian Nicole Seale, who attended Shelton since the sixth grade, delivered the benediction. Nicole will attend Texas Christian University, where she is considering majoring in Finance. “Attending Shelton, which is tailored for learning differences, benefitted me and my family," she said in the graduation program. "From the small classrooms that allow for more personalized attention from teachers and the strong sense of community to the inclusive learning environment, Shelton has allowed me to embrace my unique learning style, empowered me to excel academically and confidently and pursue leadership roles."

Students are overcoming the odds and accomplishing great things at Shelton. The 79 members of the Shelton Class of 2024 received 377 acceptances to 114 different colleges and universities and $7,230,196 in merit scholarships. They are headed to 43 different colleges across 18 states and one country. 

Here are some of the accomplishments of the students in the Class of 2024:

  • Two of Shelton’s seniors scored a perfect score of 36 on the ACT Reading. 

  • Seven scored 30 or higher on the ACT composite, and many scored 30 or higher on the ACT English, Reading, Math, Science and STEM sections.  

  • Maya Kamen received two prestigious and competitive scholarships, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Levine Scholars Program and the Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt Leadership Scholars Program. Maya accepted the UNCC opportunity, which provides full tuition, an $8,000 service grant and four summer experiences, including study abroad and internships.

  • Lane McCranie signed to play lacrosse at Southwestern University.

  • Four seniors were accepted into competitive Fine Arts programs at the collegiate level: 

    • Kathryn Brockette was accepted into the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting program at New York University.

    • Addison Peacock accepted a position in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts program at Southern Methodist University.

    • Max Innes committed to the five-year Bachelor of Architecture program at Tulane University.

    • Jordan Johnson will study in the Visual Art program at Austin College.

Here are Shelton’s Top 10 graduates: 

  • Charles Mitts, Valedictorian; college plans: Indiana University at Bloomington, majoring in Business

  • Nicole Seale, Salutatorian; college plans: Texas Christian University, considering majoring in Finance

  • Lilly Barnett, college plans: Texas A&M, majoring in Engineering

  • Ryan Cuzalina, college plans: Texas Christian University, majoring in Biology

  • Zoey Degani, college plans: Iowa State University, majoring in Astrophysics

  • Sophia Dorward, College plans: Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, majoring in English or History

  • Kylie Gingold, college plans: Texas A&M, majoring in Business

  • Lauren Johnston, college plans: Austin College, undecided major

  • Jesi Roberts, college plans: University of Oklahoma, majoring in Business

  • Sam Rubin, college plans: University of Denver, majoring in Engineering

Stell praised the graduates, saying, "You have demonstrated amazing resiliency. You learned that having a learning difference can also be a gift."


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The Shelton School beehive installation occurred on Tuesday, March 25, introducing a colony of 10,000 bees to the campus.  

In order to enrich students' learning experiences and promote environmental awareness, Shelton is partnering with Alvéole to get a fully operational beehive nestled on its campus. This initiative aims to provide students with a hands-on opportunity to learn about the critical role bees play in our ecosystem and the importance of conservation efforts. 

Under the guidance of experienced beekeepers, students will have the opportunity to observe the bees up close, learn about their behavior and understand the intricate processes involved in honey production. Additionally, teachers plan to incorporate bee-related topics into various subjects, allowing for a multidisciplinary approach to learning throughout the divisions. Students will also be involved in creating the design on Shelton-branded honey jar labels. In addition, there will be beeswax candle-making. Lower School students collaborated on the construction of bee hotels made of bamboo and metal wire.

On March 26, Shelton second-grader Nora Grace Farmer proudly announced the chosen name for the Shelton Queen Bee: ElizaBee of the Shelton Bee Farm. The naming of the Queen Bee is sponsored by the Farmer family, including David, Barb, Justin, Ashley, Nora Grace, Emmerson and Holland. Thanks to the Shelton Parents' Association for making the beehive educational initiative happen.

Teachers Joe Mallick, Hunter Duesing and film students Brooks Hart and Payton Rudisill produced a video about the Shelton bee colony. Fifth-grader Yuval Tsaroya narrated the story

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Shelton students viewed the eclipse after enjoying weeks of NASA Neurodiversity curricula.

Shelton Teachers, staff and representatives of NASA's Neurodiversity Network helped make the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse meaningful for Shelton students on April 8.

Upper School and Middle School students viewed the eclipse on the football field, and Lower School students viewed the eclipse outside the Lower School entrance. Students and staff shouted, "Five, four, three, two, one!" as the total eclipse became visible. Upper School and Middle School students started the day by attending a lecture by Ellen Torres Thompson, the Planetarium Lead Educator at The Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California, and Spyros Kasapis, a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Ames Research Center. Thompson spoke about the science behind the eclipse, and Kasapis spoke about "NASA Heliophysics' Big Year." Shelton Physics teacher Dr. Samantha Cason and Shelton Upper School Earth and Space Science teacher Meredith Moody presented eclipse questions from Shelton students, which were answered by Thompson and Kasapis. Students also viewed a video, "Shelton Eclipsing Expectations.

In preparation for the eclipse, students benefited from curriculum from NASA's Neurodiversity Network.

  • Lower School students studied what causes an eclipse, how something small can cover up something larger, eclipse safety and how to make pinhole eclipse viewers.
  • Middle School students learned eclipse safety, used 3D and 2D models to describe what happened to cause an eclipse and made pinhole viewers. In addition, some classes made simple sundials and looked at the magnetic properties of the sun and Earth. 
  • In twelfth-grade Earth & Space Science, twelfth-grade Physics II and eleventh-grade Physics, students learned how the Earth, moon and sun interact and how those interactions can cause a solar eclipse. The concept of a solar eclipse was also reinforced with videos, an app on the cell phone that follows the eclipse and activities supplied by NASA. 

Visitors from NASA Neurodiversity Network spoke to Middle School and Upper School students and visited Shelton science classes for eclipse activities on Monday.

    • Spyros Kasapis completed his Aerospace Engineering Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he focused on controls and autonomous aircraft path planning. He moved to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor for his second Master’s degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. His Ph.D. was focused on Machine Learning applications in visual recognition. He has worked as an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he helped by characterizing the Van Allen radiation belt using the SDO satellite data. Additionally, he was a member of the NASA JPL 2022 Planetary Science Summer School cohort, where he worked on the Gelatto asteroid sample return mission proposal. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the NASA Ames Research Center. His research interests include the use of Machine Learning for Detection of Solar Active Region Emergence and SEP Prediction.
    • Ellen Torres Thompson is the Planetarium Lead Educator at The Lawrence Hall of Science, a children’s museum in Berkeley, California. She develops and presents live, interactive astronomy programs for K-12 students and families. She graduated in 2021 with majors in Astrophysics and South and Southeast Asian Studies from UC Berkeley. 

    • Ariana Riccio is collaborating on NASA’s Neurodiversity Network, which is working to create pathways to NASA participation and STEM careers for neurodiverse learners. Riccio holds a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the Graduate Center of The City University of New York and a BS in Biology and Community Health from Tufts University. 
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Shelton School is gearing up for a celestial spectacle unlike any other. With the rare total solar eclipse set to pass over Shelton on April 8 at 1:41 p.m., the campus is teeming with excitement as students and faculty prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From viewing events on the Shelton football field and outside the Lower School to educational initiatives, the school's eclipse plans promise to unite science enthusiasts and curious minds in a celebration like never before. After all, Dallas won’t fall in the path of totality again for nearly 300 years.

Shelton is fortunate to receive curricula and funding from NASA’s Neurodiversity Network, which developed curriculum guides and hands-on classroom materials focused on teaching STEM concepts (specifically Heliophysics) in preparation for the total solar eclipse.

Students and staff will be equipped with eclipse glasses, thanks to a generous donation by Shelton grandparent and optometrist Dr. Arnold Stokol

  • Lower School students will study what causes an eclipse, how can something small cover up something smaller, eclipse safety and how to make pinhole eclipse viewers.
  • Middle School students will learn eclipse safety, use 3D and 2D models to describe what happens to cause an eclipse and make pinhole viewers; some classes will extend the lessons and make simple sundials and look at the magnetic properties of the sun and Earth. 
  • In twelfth-grade Earth & Space Science, twelfth-grade Physics II and eleventh-grade Physics, students will have a class lecture about how the Earth, moon and sun interact and how those interactions can cause a solar eclipse. The concept of a solar eclipse will also be reinforced with videos, an app on the cell phone that follows the eclipse and activities supplied by NASA. Students will use Solar Science curricula from NASA to learn about the physical features of the sun, how eclipses happen and safe eclipse viewing. 

Eclipse facts and safety will also be presented on the announcements as well as by science teachers.

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One hundred and ten Shelton students, parents, teachers, coaches and staff worked with the Dallas Sports Commission and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) to take part in the pregame banner ceremonies at the CONCACAF Nations League Finals on Sunday, March 24, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Shelton was the only school selected to assist on the field during the Final Center Banner Ceremony. Shelton participants were involved in the flag ceremony before the third-place match on Sunday, March 24, at 5:00 p.m. and before the final game at 8:15 p.m.  Thanks to Shelton parent Stacey Segal, Director of Operations for the Dallas Sports Commission, and Shelton Athletics Director Alan Burt for making this opportunity happen for Shelton students, parents and teachers. Leading up to the final ceremony, participants took time to participate in two rehearsals at Shelton. People traveled from all over the world to help run the practices with our Shelton community.  

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The Shelton School Parents' Association (SPA) raised money at the 2024 Stampede benefit auction on March 1 at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Attendees enjoyed the evening with "Back to the 80s" as the theme. The evening included a cocktail reception, seated dinner, live and big board auctions and musical entertainment by Emerald City.

Auction proceeds go toward improving academics, curriculum programs, arts, athletics, technology, professional development for teachers, our wellness program, security enhancements and tuition assistance. Proceeds also go to the Shelton Endowment Fund and the Shelton Scholarship Fund. Among the items available at the auction were the Ultimate Cowboys experience, including travel for two on the Cowboys team-chartered plane and two tickets to a Cowboys away game, a poker party with former Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, four tickets to Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in Amsterdam and more.

2024 Stampede Auction co-chairs were Jennie Jones and Carolyn StrickfadenGina Rangel Pena and JoAnna Sudbeck are co-presidents of the 2023-2024 Shelton Parents' Association, which sponsored the event. Shelly Lloyd is Shelton's Director of Volunteer Relations and Events. 

Executive Director Suzanne Stell thanked the parents, volunteers, sponsors and staff who helped make the Stampede a success. "We couldn't do this without everyone," she said. "Our students would not experience the growth or the success they do without the support of what you do on evenings like tonight."

Shelton board member Bill Corrigan, who is father to tenth-grade Shelton student Kiwi and former Shelton student MaeMae, asked the crowd to give a standing donation for the Shelton staff. "This is one of the top schools in the country for children with learning differences," he said. "We love you guys and thank you for all that you do for our school."

Thanks to everyone for creating a successful event and for contributing funds that support Shelton!

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By Amy Cushner

Associate Head of Shelton School

Educator Elizabeth Stone once wrote that having a child is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” When children are hurt, parental emotions trigger a call to action. But what if the hurt is invisible? What if the struggle is not seen or the effects are not felt until years later? This is the path of a child with a learning difference.

A constitutional learning difference is a person with average to above average intelligence, who is at risk for failing when exposed to standard methods of education, due to neurological processing difficulties. This is not related to effort. Common learning differences are dyslexia (decoding, spelling), ADHD, oral language disorders, dysgraphia (handwriting) and dyscalculia (math). Learning Differences affect approximately 20 percent of the population or one in five children and adults. A learning difference is not overt or transparent like a skinned knee — unless the soft signs are present and the eye is trained to see them. 

Early Signs

Dr. Sylvia Richardson, pediatrician, speech pathologist, Montessorian, former president of the International Dyslexia Association and advocate for early intervention of learning differences, said, “If you would identify children who are high risk for failure in academic learning tasks, with the goal of providing early intervention, evaluate: coordination, language, attention, perception, social-emotional.” 

Delays in these areas during the critical developmental stage of birth to 6 are the early signs of a potential learning difference. Simply remember C-L-A-P-S. Delays, no matter the level of severity in any or all of these areas, can be acted on with early intervention. This is not new information. In 1902, James Hinchelwood was the first advocate of record to give the clarion call of action for early intervention. He said, “The sooner the nature of the child’s deficit is recognized, the better the chances of the child’s improvement.”

Time to Act

The conduit for a parent to understand and get help for these areas of child development can be a pediatrician, speech pathologist or early childhood educator. We can also build awareness and understanding of typical versus atypical child development through the use of online developmental charts and checklists or websites such as Podcasts from researchers like Dr. Sally Shaywitz address early signs of dyslexia. Intervention includes work with a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist and attending a school that specializes in working with children at risk prior to kindergarten, such as Shelton’s Early Childhood. 

Katrina De Hirsch, a pioneer in early learning disabilities, once wrote, "Our present-day knowledge is sufficient to clear the way for preventive work. We are undoubtedly able to pick out those youngsters in kindergarten who are liable to turn into dyslexic children. Exposing these particular youngsters to a different educational approach would eliminate much of the later-developing frustrations and disabilities." 

We are stewards of our children’s future, for they cannot make decisions regarding intervention. Our children cannot afford for us to “wait and see.”

Amy Cushner is Associate Head of Shelton School, Early Childhood-Sixth Grades at the Shelton School in Dallas, Texas. She holds an M. Ed., is a CALT, Qualified Instructor in MSLE programs for written language disorders and is Montessori certified, Elementary 1. Most important to Amy, she has 30 years of joyful experience in working with children with learning differences and their families. 


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Not only did Alisa and Ryan Richardson find academic support and help for their learning differences at Shelton, but they found each other. 

Alisa came to Shelton in eighth grade and Ryan started at Shelton in fifth grade, each grappling with their own learning differences — Alisa with ADHD and Dyslexia and Ryan with Dyslexia. They became best friends in eighth grade. 

After graduating from Shelton in 2005, Alisa majored in psychology at Oklahoma State University and Ryan majored in business at the University of Arkansas. The two became a couple after college and married in 2012. 

As their own family blossomed, Alisa and Ryan knew exactly where to turn for their children's education. Charlie Ann and Nolan followed in their parents' footsteps and are now students at Shelton. It was a decision rooted in the firm belief that Shelton provided not just an education but a foundation for success tailored to each child's needs. Second-grader Charlie Ann receives support for Auditory Processing and Dysgraphia, while fourth-grader Nolan receives support for Dyslexia.

Alisa has embraced the role of a stay-at-home mom while also taking on the leadership of a Shelton Girl Scout troop. Meanwhile, Ryan has established himself as the owner of Audi Dallas and Goodson Acura of Dallas. Reflecting on their parenting decisions, Alisa says, “We knew that the best thing we could do for our children was to start them off at Shelton from the beginning so they would have a solid foundation in place for their future educational journey.” 

Alisa shares insightful advice for parents navigating similar challenges: “Make your child’s learning difference their superpower,” she says. “Don’t let it burden them, but instead give them the tools to soar to unimaginable heights.”

It’s a Valentine’s love story. Alisa and Ryan's enduring bond, coupled with their positive outlook on learning differences, began to flourish during their formative years at Shelton, starting all the way back in eighth grade.

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Ethics Symposium_1-24-2024_5113 (1) (1).JPG Keynote speaker Dr. Melinda Sutton, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at SMU, spoke at Shelton's Ethics Symposium about the ethics of student conduct and academic integrity.

Shelton's eleventh- and twelfth-grade students attended Shelton's 22nd Ethics Symposium, "Everyday Ethics," on Jan. 24, 2024. Activities included guided discussions, small group exercises and panel discussions with guest presenters. Speakers and panelists engaged students with lessons learned from real-world professional experiences. Keynote speaker Dr. Melinda Sutton, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at SMU, spoke about the ethics of student conduct and academic integrity. Chase Miller (Shelton Class of 2014), who is Executive Vice President at NAI Robert Lynn, delivered the “Charge of the Day.” 

Panels included: 

The Ethics of Taking Action (the responsibility of being an engaged citizen):

  • Cara Mendelsohn, Dallas City Council Member, District 12, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on General Investigating and Ethics
  • Gromer Jeffers, Dallas Morning News political reporter

Ethics of Taking Care (sustainability, protecting the environment, taking care of our community):

  • Carlos R. Evans, Dallas Director of the Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability, Dallas City Hall
  • Avery McKitrick, University of Texas-Dallas’ Senior Sustainability Coordinator for Operations and Engagement
  • Chris Guldi, former Conservation Chair of the Dallas Sierra Club 

The Ethics of Taking Heart (knowing right from wrong, recovering from mistakes, building resiliency):

  • Michael Berry, Executive Director of Youth Guidance and former program supervisor of B.A.M., Becoming a Man in Dallas Independent School District, a mentoring program that guides young men to become positive members of their community
  • Tim Grigsby, CEO of the 24 Hour Club, which offers support services for homeless alcoholics and addicts
  • Mandi Patton, Program Manager of the 24 Hour Club
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By Dr. Laure Ames
Director of Shelton Evaluation Center
The Shelton Evaluation Center works with students who have dyslexia on a weekly basis. The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia in the following way: “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Despite years of research into what dyslexia is and how it can be remediated as well as both state and federal laws requiring the identification and servicing of dyslexia, parents frequently struggle to get their child identified and served. I struggled for years to get my own son identified and served in his public school, and I hear the same frustration that I had from parents today.

Dyslexic students are not a small number of students in our population. According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, “Dyslexia affects one out of five people. Dyslexia is the most common reading disability — 20 percent of the population is struggling with this hidden disability. It crosses racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines. With proper instruction and accommodations, it can be remediated. Many students remain undiagnosed and untreated. As a result, they struggle with the impact of their dyslexia. The diagnosis and treatment remain elusive in public schools, and even more so in urban school populations, and African American and Latino communities.” 

Recent statistics show that only 15 percent of fourth graders read on grade level in a local public school system in Dallas. The results of reading failure impact students, families and society. Dr. Reid Lyon, Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, addressed Congress in 2001 and stated that, “The educational and public health consequences of this level of reading failure are dire. Of the 10 to 15 percent of children who will eventually drop out of school, over 75 percent will report difficulties learning to read. Likewise, only 2 percent of students receiving special or compensatory education for difficulties learning to read will complete a four-year college program. Surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records indicate that at least half have reading difficulties, and in some states the size of prisons a decade in the future is predicted by fourth grade reading failure rates. Approximately half of children and adolescents with a history of substance abuse have reading problems. It goes without saying that failure to learn to read places children's futures and lives at risk for highly deleterious outcomes. It is for this reason that the NICHD considers reading failure to reflect a national public health problem.”

Remembering my son’s struggles, my attempts to advocate for him and students like him, and knowing how important it is to identify dyslexia and intervene early, I have watched in awe as a group of dedicated parents with Decoding Dyslexia, educational advocates and lawmakers have worked tirelessly over the last several years to clarify existing laws in support of dyslexic students. House Bill 3928, named for Shelton student Beckley Wilson, is the latest result of that dedication. Some of the significant changes coming as a result of the law include the fact that students with dyslexia and families have access to the unique educational rights of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and schools must offer evaluations for dyslexia via IDEA and include all areas of suspected disability (vs. the previous limited, dyslexia-only evaluations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). Significantly, the identification of dyslexia (or any Specific Learning Disability) no longer requires a significant variance among specific areas of cognitive function or between specific areas of cognitive function and academic achievement, an invalid identification model used for years in our schools. Further, the IDEA multidisciplinary evaluation team must include a highly trained member with specific knowledge about the reading process, dyslexia and related disorders and dyslexia instruction. This person’s signature is required to ensure dyslexia professionals are not excluded from new district evaluation practices under IDEA. And finally, the law requires school boards to create a policy requiring compliance with the Texas Dyslexia Handbook and subsequent TEA guidance.

Dr. Shaywitz has said that it is “inexcusable” to miss the diagnosis of dyslexia as it can “determine the course of a child’s life.” Maybe this is the real progress needed to resolve the inequity often experienced by our dyslexic students.

For more information about diagnosing students with dyslexia and learning differences, visit