Pride of the Pine Belt: Teacher seeks to inspire students with learning challenges

JASPER COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - "By the time I was in junior high. I was an emotional wreck," said Director of Rebel Reading, Sonya Bridges.

Bridges remembers struggling to learn how to read through elementary and jr. high.

"The older I got I struggled through school," said Bridges.

Bridges says after school her mother would tutor her. Teachers spent extra time helping her at her former school, Heidelberg Academy.

"You just finally reach the point were you say, well, everyone else is getting it in class. It seems so easy for everyone else. Why is it so hard for me?," said Bridges.

Bridges wouldn't get her answer until years later. Until then, she suffered from low self-esteem. She wouldn't break through her negative thoughts about her capabilities until her first A on a history test her junior year of high school.

"It was almost like an addiction, because I had never experienced that," said Bridges.

The grade changed her perspective. She became a 4.0 student in college, and now she's getting her PhD.  Bridges serves on the Heidelberg Academy School Board, and teaches the subject that gave her confidence. She never forgot how hard it was accomplishing her goals, and the days of questioning why. She got her answer two years ago.

"It was a weight lifted off my shoulders when I found out that I was dyslexic," said Bridges.

At the age of 33, Bridges felt relieved.

"I'm not stupid I just learn differently," said Bridges.

Bridges learned her younger cousin was dyslexic. The family researched more about it, and soon realized it was hereditary.

"We discovered that not only am I dyslexic, my father is dyslexic. It has kind of become our family cause," said Bridges.

Bridges took on another cause this year, she started the Rebel Reading Program at the academy.

"I was to the point where I could help other kids," said Bridges.

In the Rebel Reading Program, students come to this room three times a week using a certain method to help the students.

"It's the Orton Gillingham based program. It's a very scientific based methods that we use," said Bridges.

Bridges says with a dyslexic therapist they help students kindergarten through 12 grade overcome this learning challenge. Bridges says she needed to do more. So, she wrote a children's book called "A Snail's Pace". Bridges was inspired by a quote from a Baptist preacher from the 1800s.

"By perseverance the snails made it to the ark," said Bridges.

Bridges wrote this tale of encourage for kids facing the challenges of dyslexia, and for herself.

"You know I'm a snail, because I'm a slower learner than the other kids, but I'm going to get there. I know I'm going to make my ark. I may have to do it a different way, but I know I'm going to reach my arc," said Bridges.

If you would like more information on Rebel Readers, or if you would like to contact Bridges e-mail her at

Copyright 2012, WDAM. All rights reserved.