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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

From Frustrated Teacher to Educational Entrepreneur

Many of you have been following me for years, whereas others are discovering my blog and sites for the first time. So let me begin by saying that writing this blog has been both grounding and enriching. Much like a diary, I have documented my thoughts, passions, experiences, and inspirations. What's more, writing helps me to stay on top of the current trends and research. Although I addressed a multitude of topics, I have never shared much about my own path. This week, I am sharing my own journey so that you have a better understanding of my expertise, passions and point of view. I also hope that this post inspires other frustrated teachers to blaze their own entrepreneurial adventure!

My Story:
I'm Dr. Erica Warren, and for the past 18 years I have built a multiple 6 figure a year practice as a learning specialist. From one to one sessions, to creating multisensory educational materials to video podcasts, blogs and even online courses and mentorships, I've been paid by thousands and thousands of customers from all over the world. This business has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life.  Best of all, I've done it on my own without having to accommodate or navigate a broken educational system.  It took me a while to discover this opportunity.  In fact, I didn’t even consider becoming an educational entrepreneur until I experienced, first hand, the terrible state of schooling in the United States.

Throughout my own training, I have worked in private and public schools with struggling students, conducted evaluations of school systems, assisted research for the National Science Foundation, conducted comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations, worked as a vocational evaluation technician, practiced as a mental retardation professional and even was a personal aid for the head injured.  One theme I noticed across virtually all my positions was that anyone with a disability or difference was provided substandard accommodations and, in many cases, were outright abused.  

These experiences fueled my desire to finish a master’s and doctoral degree. I wanted to tailor my own expertise, and I studied in the departments of educational psychology for two years, school psychology for two years, special education for two years, and then finish my studies in adult education.  When I completed my training, I was impassioned and ready to really make a difference for struggling and “out of the box” learners. I thought, now that I have these degrees, I will surely have the power to make a difference.  
My first job was directing a college program for students with learning disabilities.  Sadly, after nine months of 12-15 hour days and dealing with an ignorant and combative administration, I had to resign my position. I could see that they did not have the students needs in mind and were only using the program to make an extra buck.  I’ll never forget a specific incident with the president of the university who was also a nun.  She exclaimed to her staff, “We just accepted a blind student, and nobody is to offer her any accommodations until the parents threaten to sue.”  I did what I could to educate the powers above about the laws that protected the students, but my expertise, passion to serve, and desire to follow mandated rules was seen as adversarial.  I was quickly swooped up by another university to create a program for their students, but again, they were not willing to put any money into or allot any space for the program.  I was placed in the counseling department but was never allocated an office.  Whenever I had an appointment, I had to ask a colleague to borrow their space.  As you can imagine, this created friction and resentment and so I resigned.  

After that, I worked as a learning specialist in a private school, and I also began consulting with the public school system.  I could see how difficult it was for students to get their mandated rights, and soon decided to create my own private practice.  I thought, if I can’t get this to work, I’m just going to go back to school and become an interior decorator.

I decided to work out of my home to keep my expenses to a minimum.  Soon, I established my business, Learning to Learn, gathered the needed materials, networked with local professionals in complementary fields, and was quickly inundated with referrals.  I started working with high school and college students, but continued to read books, take workshops, courses, and even paid a reading specialist to walk me through her Orton Gillingham based reading program.  Over time, I worked my way down to middle school and elementary learners.  At this point, I could see that I had outgrown my home office and rented an office suite where I continue to work to this day.

Looking back on my private practice, I can honestly say that most of what I do today, I have learned since opening the doors of Learning to Learn.  I had to continue to master academics so that I could help my students learn course content.  Also, although I had a deep understanding of learning and cognition, I had to find and create the best remedial tools and methods for my students.  

It was back in 2005 that I created my first publication: Multisensory Multiplication and Division to Melodies.  In fact, I hired my own students to go into a recording studio with me to sing on the CD.  Now 11 years later, I offer close to 100 products online. This includes multisensory methods and lessons for teachers and homeschoolers, cognitive remedial tools for learning specialists and educational therapists, and a whole suite of learning games that can even be used by parents with their children.  

It has been an empowering adventure that has helped me to embrace a passion for lifelong learning. Over the past 7 years, I have become skilled at blogging, savvy with social media, adept at web design, experienced at video podcasting and now I’m pursuing one of my true passions and creating online courses as well as a support community for learning specialists and educational therapists.

Although I was unable to change our educational system when working under the umbrella of our established institutions, I have been delighted to discover that my private practice and online sites offer a rewarding global reach and positive influence that serves and inspires teachers, homeschoolers, learning specialists, therapists and administrators.

If I can be of assistance, feel free to reach out at erica@goodsensorylearning.com

About the Author
Dr. Erica Warren is a learning authority on multisensory teaching and educational materials.  With well over a million hits on her popular blog, Dr. Warren offers free advice for teachers, parents and homeschoolers.  She is also an avid podcaster @ Go Dyslexia and author, illustrator and publisher at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  Teacher training and one to one sessions are also available at Learning Specialist Courses and Learning to Learn.   You can also follow Erica on Google +,Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, or connect on Facebook or LinkedIn.
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