Reading program kept elementary teacher in former students’ hearts

Dr. Lorraine Killion had the same group of students from the third through fifth grades at Wesley Elementary School some 35 years ago. They were a pilot group for what was known then as DISTAR, a system for teaching reading and math (DISTAR reading has since been expanded and rebranded by SRA/McGraw-Hill as Reading Master). Dr. Killion and her students became so close during those three years that the students never forgot her.

When one of the alumnus’s sons discovered that Dr. Killion was still teaching, the former students used Facebook to get in touch and organize a reunion. Nearly the entire class gathered at a Houston restaurant recently to honor Dr. Killion, whom they hadn’t seen since the fifth grade.

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“They surprised me, and I cried like a baby,” Dr. Killion said. “I hadn’t heard from them for 30 years! I thought I was having lunch with a couple of students, and nearly all of them were there.”

After leaving Wesley, Dr. Killion earned her doctorate in health and kinesiology and is now teaching students at Texas A&M Kingsville to become physical education teachers.

According to former student Towanna Gary Bazile, who holds a master’s degree in business administration, the combination of the DISTAR system and Dr. Killion worked. Many of her students went on to build successful careers, becoming business owners, nurses, lawyers, a firefighter, and a police officer. Dr. Killion even inspired two of her students to become teachers in HISD: Demetria Washington is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Bonham Elementary, and Daniel Turknett is an ESL teacher at Osborne Elementary.

“It’s been 35 years since we’ve seen her, but we’ve thought of her often,” said former student Tommy Lee Sr. “She took a small group of African American children and opened our minds to reading, writing, science, learning, and adventure. Dr. Killion is our superstar, and we love her.”

To visit Killion’s Kids Facebook page, please see this link.