As Margarette Pang tells her story of growing up “different,” her voice quivers and cracks over memories of being teased and excluded.
“People thought I was lazy or stupid because I was quiet,” recalls Pang. Years later, an IQ test would reveal that she ranks just below genius levels. So when she saw her oldest child struggling to learn words in kindergarten after he had been proficient in solving puzzles at age 1, she knew something wasn’t right.
As it turned out, Pang and all three of her children are dyslexic. According to the National Institute of Health, dyslexia is defined as a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition as well as poor spelling and decoding abilities - despite an average intelligence.
“People think that if you have dyslexia, you read things backwards or you’re always reversing things or you’re lazy or stupid. Those are just myths,” Pang says, adding that the disability is inherited and affects 20 percent of the worldwide population.
Five years ago with no more than her husband’s paycheck, Pang founded the Dyslexia Tutoring Center of Hawaii. The nonprofit organization provides technical assistance and workshops to educate individuals, families and the general community about the challenges dyslexia brings. Through a collaborative partnership with school administrators, teachers, parents and families, Pang has traveled to more than 20 schools statewide to speak about her own personal tribulations and triumphs with the learning disability. Amazingly, all operations are conducted free of charge.
“I really can’t see trying to make a profit off of someone’s struggles,” says the Roosevelt High graduate, who is a certified dyslexia testing specialist and certified Barton tutor. “I’m turning advocating into educating, and education is so important to all of us.”
Don’t think Pang’s work in raising awareness and acceptance of dyslexia has gone unnoticed. She is the recipient of the 2008 Kapolei Outstanding Achievement Award for Education, the 2009 Certificate of Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the 2009 Jefferson Award.
“Dyslexia doesn’t take preference of race, religion or sex - it affects everyone,” Pang states. “At DTCH, we take these kids and we build up their self-esteem, we put smiles on their faces and we help them succeed. I think that’s my reward.”
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