Q&A with Marsha Gaynor Lewis of The Lewis School of Princeton

What is the history and mission of The Lewis School of Princeton?

The mission and philosophy of The Lewis School of Princeton are best described by founder Marsha Gaynor Lewis:

“At The Lewis School, we understand our students’ unconventional approaches to learning not as disabilities but as learning differences—the expression of remarkable and diverse intelligence, creativity, and original thinking that coexists with the frustration of inherent challenges.” ©ML 1973

The Lewis School, which combines its Clinic for Educational Testing and Teacher Training, is a widely respected, private, coeducational, college preparatory day school and educational resource recognized for the exceptional researched-based education it offers. The School typically serves 200 students, pre-kindergarten through high school postgraduate age, who are impacted by dyslexia, ADHD, and challenges associated with auditory learning and executive functioning.

Lewis is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and is accredited by the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS). More than four decades of extraordinary alumni success confirm The Lewis School’s unrivaled legacy as a proven leader at the forefront of education for students who learn differently.

In 1972, the work of The Lewis School began modestly in the founder’s living room as a tutorial program for five curious, “incorrigible” little boys and a shy, speech-hesitant little girl who were struggling to read, write, spell, follow directions, and listen to their teachers.

Since 1973, The Lewis School’s mission has remained constant. “It is to educate and empower bright, creative young people whose scholastic achievement and human potential are compromised by unresolved, language-based learning differences related to dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing, and executive functioning.”

How are language and learning skills taught at The Lewis School? What ages does the Lewis School serve? 

The School is recognized for the excellence of its frontline approaches to learning. We are an established leader among the respected programs in the country, offering dyslexic and learning-different students the advantages of researched-based, multi-sensory education. The curriculum is challenging, competitive, and parallels and/or exceeds the New Jersey State Core Curriculum requirements for high school graduation. The School offers an unmatched education for learning-different students, pre-kindergarten – 12th grade, and also provides educational intervention and support for high school post-graduates, GAP year students, and college students looking to build stronger reading, writing, and study skills.

The Lewis School does not define dyslexia as a reading problem in isolation. Dyslexia can affect language processing in a wide range of modalities expressed in the brain’s organization and mechanics of learning. Difficulties may also include auditory processing, sequencing, executive functioning, organizational skills, and memory systems. Current neuroscience research in education corroborates the efficacy and appropriateness of teaching and learning approaches that Lewis has used for decades. Other educators and schools locally and nationally have used The Lewis School educational methodology and educational model to inform and guide their own academic support programs.

Our education combines well-known remedial programs with Marsha Lewis’s proprietary LIMMOLL System of teaching and learning (Lewis Integrated Mechanics of Language and Learning). Orton-Gillingham, Wilson Reading, Lindamood-Bell, and the Fernald Method are simultaneously staples of teaching at Lewis.

What is the College Planning Program? 

The College PREP program, (Preparing to Reach Exceptional Potential) is a standout Lewis School experience that thoroughly prepares students to navigate the academic rigors, social stressors, and the many opportunities of college life.

This year, the 17 graduates of the Class of 2017 were accepted to a diverse choice of colleges and universities, and together they were awarded $1.3 million in merit scholarship funding. Most of our students will graduate from college with little or no debt.

Lewis PREP programs are completely individualized and designed to steer and support college-bound “seniors” through every step of the application process. This includes preparation for the SAT/ACT exams, and the ASL or other foreign language requirements (if not waived). A team of six skilled, highly experienced advisors meets with their assigned students regularly, often daily on a set schedule, until all applications, essays, and required documentation is finalized.

Students who qualify are encouraged to spend summers at other private schools, university campuses, or in programs abroad to explore special interests they may have before choosing a college or a college major. College PREP planning at Lewis has opened the door to extraordinary opportunity for thousands of Lewis School graduates.

Describe some accomplishments of current or recent Lewis School students. 

Graduates have become championship divers in local and national competitions and Olympic trials; they have been accepted on full scholarships to colleges and universities nationally and internationally; they serve as board members, law professors, and medical school instructors. They are recognized artists, photographers, videographers, and successful senior management team members for Fortune 500 companies managing international wealth, private equity, and mergers and acquisitions.

Jamie Bishop, a member of The Lewis School Class of 1995, said, “My story is more than 20 years in the making and I am still shaped by the education I received at The Lewis School during the formative years of my life. When I was 8, I couldn’t read or even spell my name correctly. I had no confidence or self-esteem. It didn’t occur to me that I would ever go to college or succeed professionally.

“I never could have guessed that The Lewis School and, later, Oxford University and a JD would become the most wonderful experiences of my entire life. My teachers at Lewis built a foundation of learning that was the renaissance of my life.”

Jamie Bishop’s achievements currently include senior management positions in finance and leadership in the field of renewable energy and clean technology.  Like so many others whose enrichment began at The Lewis School, Jamie Bishop went on to help make the world a better place, with life at Lewis making an extraordinary and successful life after Lewis possible. It is undeniable that alumni like Jamie Bishop are not only positive role models for dyslexic children, but for all of us.

What are The Lewis School’s plans for the future? 

The Lewis School and Clinic is a flagship educational entity that combines a competitive, college preparatory, pre-k through 12, full-time school with a neuroscience-based diagnostic clinic, a teacher training resource, and research component.

The School’s Strategic Plan provides for the near-term and long-term growth and development of The Lewis School and Clinic’s existing programs and facilities. The Strategic Plan also ensures that The Lewis School and Clinic’s extraordinary mission and the Head’s pioneering vision for the future will prevail and prosper in perpetuity for the next half century and beyond.