The Learning Atrium expands its vision Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Carolyn Averill, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Jul. 30, 2020 -- 12:00 AM
Learning Atrium

Deb Krebs, left, and a tutor work with two St. Ambrose Academy in Madison students during the school day.

(Contributed photo)

MADISON -- Necessity is the mother of invention, and for one mother, the source of a life-changing mission that is impacting children throughout the Diocese of Madison.

When Deb Krebs noticed her youngest son was not faring well with reading, beginning in kindergarten, she searched for extra help.

Discovering the Barton System, designed to address spelling, reading, and writing struggles for students with dyslexia, was a game changer.

Soon after she began tutoring her son, another family at their school asked her to tutor their son. The principal allowed Krebs to come to the school, integrating tutoring within the school day.

When Krebs' son entered St. Ambrose Academy (SAA) for sixth grade, the school administration strongly encouraged her to expand the work she was doing to better serve the SAA student population.

Meeting the needs of students is an important goal for Joan Carey, SAA executive director, who noted how, "Deb is swift to point out that traditional methods that teach learning to read do not succeed with as many as 20 percent of learners. Catholic schools often lack the resources to train teachers to pinpoint the nature of their students' learning difficulties or to employ onsite learning specialists."

Reading institute launched

In 2016, with great determination and support from many sides, including a three-year grant from the Diocese of Madison's Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities, Krebs formally launched the SAA Reading Institute.

The grant allowed Krebs to support St. Ambrose students and others, with expansion beginning immediately.

"In that first year, I started working with three schools after being trained as a screener to identify dyslexia and to know more about the Barton Method," said Krebs.

Since then, Krebs has continued to train 15 tutors who work with 35 students in five local Catholic schools and sees this work as a vital part of the Catholic mission of education.

She noted how often "students can be passed off as being lazy or unintelligent but dyslexia has nothing to do with that. It has to do with how they process information."

Accessibility to reading opens doors for students, gives them confidence, and inspires a love for learning and developing their own unique talents.

Krebs cited notable examples like Walt Disney and Charles Schwab as successful people who were dyslexic and how "we need the gifts that these kids have to solve our world's problems. By having a program like this, it allows students to stay in our Catholic schools where they can become well-formed Catholics equipped to make a difference with the way God has made them."

As the Reading Institute grew, the SAA administration and Krebs recognized the benefits of creating an independent apostolate to expand on the strong foundation already laid.

Growing impact

Rebranded in 2020 as the Learning Atrium, an independent organization, Carey affirmed that Krebs is positioned for even more focused success as interest has grown for these services and as it "now has its own governing board, a strong team of advisors focused solely on offering students who struggle with reading challenges a path forward."

Angela Hineline, SAA learning specialist, sang high praise for Krebs, "a true champion for this much needed support."

As an educator, Hineline works with a wide variety of students, and knows how "the lack of a diagnosis and proper support can cause children to suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression as they (and their parents) find themselves falling further behind their same-aged peers in reading."

The impact of this work is only just beginning. Hineline shared how, "the years of suffering that are lifted through this program is truly amazing. One mother shared with us that her child may be the first in their family to ever graduate from high school" after recognizing that her son's struggles were the same ones that had limited other family members' educational dreams.

The Learning Atrium promises to have a profound effect on the diocese.

As Krebs begins this new chapter, she is continuing to seek professionals like education experts and physicians to add their expertise to the board while also looking to expand IT, social media, and fundraising capabilities.

The demand for the Learning Atrium's services continues to grow, with five new students ready to begin one-on-one tutoring this fall, provided more tutors can be enlisted and trained.

St. Ambrose Academy celebrates the birth of the Learning Atrium and congratulates Deb Krebs on her dedication to the important cause of children who deserve individualized instruction that can open the door to reading, writing, and learning.

The Academy is excited about what her continued work can mean for our Diocese and the upcoming generations of young Catholic leaders.

For more information on The Learning Atrium, contact Deb Krebs at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Carolyn Averill is the advancement director for St. Ambrose Academy in Madison.

Please support our advertisers: