West Windsor, N.J. – When Al Leister was growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, he spelled poorly, read slowly and often mispronounced words. But these classic symptoms of dyslexia went undiagnosed.
“I did okay in first and second grades,” he recalled in a presentation to approximately 40 Mercer County Community College (MCCC) faculty members at the Conference Center on Aug. 20. “But I hit a wall in third grade. It was most notable during spelling bees.”
Leister, who taught Health and Physical Education, as well as Mathematics, at MCCC from 1970 until his retirement in 2006, returned to campus during pre-class week to present a professional development workshop along with Director of Special Services Arlene Stinson.
Leister recalled that while he struggled academically, he came from a supportive family and gradually learned to work around his learning difficulties. “You can’t get rid of them, but you can develop coping strategies,” he said. “Persistence is key. Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Leister went on to attend Lock Haven University, where he played soccer. “I was athletic and I had mechanical ability,” he said. Observing that many famous and accomplished people have dyslexia, he said that dyslexics often have considerable strengths in other areas.
He noted that early on in college, he developed study habits that made the difference, including studying by writing material on notecards so that he was able to commit the material to memory. He also learned to hang out with good students.