The Parthenon

A HELPing Hand

Guyer advocates literacy with H.E.L.P. Center

John Fauss

John Fauss

John Fauss, Reporter

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The H.E.L.P. Center has played a pivotal role in the development of students with learning disabilities since its founding in 1981. This is all thanks in part to the woman who founded it, Barbara P. Guyer.

Guyer worked with students her entire life, including grades 2-6, remedial reading in a wom-en’s prison and as a principal of several schools, one of which was the Learning Disability Cen-ters in Richmond, Virginia, which she organized. She arrived at Marshall University in 1975 as a coordinator of the Learning Disability Program in graduate school before founding the H.E.L.P. Center.

The H.E.L.P. Center first started with two grad-uate students and three employees, but has since grown to 200 students, 10 full-time staff employ-ees and 50 part-time employees.

Along with her contributions to the founding of the H.E.L.P. Center, Guyer has also published four books focused on different learning dis-abilities. Her most recent book, “Reading and Self-Esteem,” discusses the correlation of stu-dents’ success in school based on their own performances.

“When I was teaching public school,” Guyer said, “I noticed that as early as kindergarten that students began to become turned off by school when they weren’t learning to read as well as the other students.”

Guyer said not being able to sing or draw well is not too detrimental to a person’s image and mental state. She added that not being able to read makes a person appear unintelligent, and as a result, people begin to shun the idea of school and learning completely.

“These students begin to come to their own re-alization that the good life is not for them,” Guyer

said. “They then begin to hang out with students who aren’t doing as well either and that leads to trouble.”

Guyer said there are different explanations as to why students are not performing up to expectations. It could be reading is not taught to particular students in a way they can un-derstand. Other reasons may include they homelessness or divorce in their families, which can cause distractions and loss of focus.

Guyer said there are still teaching methods to help increase a student’s self-esteem.

“A couple ideas we preach is to try helping students to think positively, instead of thinking ‘I’ll never pass this test’ and thinking ‘I am go-ing to pass this test,’” Guyer said. “We want them to see themselves as a success and the person they want to be rather than where they are right now.”

Guyer uses past experiences with students as examples in her books to demonstrate what students may deem impossible or futile at the moment is just a state of mind which can be overcome by perseverance.

Jim Deacon, who came to college, had teachers who told him not to bother attending college. At the time, Deacon had an above average IQ, but was on a second grade reading and writing level. Deacon was determined to attend graduate col-lege, and that inspired Guyer to help him achieve his goal.

Deacon graduated with a degree in broad-cast journalism and has since built a successful career. He lives in Pittsburgh and works for a sat-ellite company, where he is in charge of all the satellites east of the Rocky Mountains.

“I thought he would never make it, never,” Guyer said. “But I didn’t know Jim, and didn’t know that he didn’t know the meaning of giving up.”

In addition to “Reading and Self-Esteem,”

Guyer is also the author of “How to Maximize Your College Potential,” “Achieving Success in School and in Life,” and “The Pretenders,” which is about eight Marshall students and their stories of hope.

Guyer retired as director of the H.E.L.P. Center Aug. 1, 2005, but is still a valuable asset to the program. She retired from being a coordinator in the Learning Disability Program in 2011.

Guyer has helped students with learning

disabilities for much of her career and was al-ways willing to stay extra hours with a student who needed extra assistance.

Guyer is married to Kenneth E. Guyer and has two adult daughters, both of whom have ADHD. They have gone on to become a lawyer and a phy-sician, proving it is always possible to achieve your goals if you put forth the effort.

John Fauss can be contacted at [email protected]

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