SAIL at McNicholas positively impacts students

SAIL is a program to help students with learning differences including ADHD, Dyslexia and Autism. SAIL has 5 Intervention Specialists that help students stay focused on schoolwork, so they don’t fall behind.   

According to Renee Herndon, SAIL department chair, The SAIL program started in the early 1990’s as an after-school place where students could go to do their work. In the late 1990’s, it became part of classes where students had a class with a teacher to help them with their work. In 2010, the program was named SAIL, an acronym meaning support and accommodations for identified learners). Currently, the program has 89 students.   

Teachers in the SAIL program are there because they want to help students who need help with their work and have problems with traditional school teachings. SAIL teacher Mary Kiger says how she helps students with their work.  “I’m a big fan of note cards especially for learning terms. I think that is helpful.” she says.   

Herndon said, “My first job was teaching grades 5 and 6 and I found I was drawn to the kids who were really struggling, but I knew they were very smart. They needed to be taught in a different way than traditional school, and I felt like that was my calling, so I went back to graduate school to figure out how I could be that teacher who could teach in a different way.”  

Mrs. Valerie Combs is assisting her student, Own Lawler   

Jack Kelly is a sophomore at McNicholas, and he says how his time in SAIL has helped him with school. “For me personally, I have a learning disability for me that has really helped me move forward in my learning and being successful, with the support of the teachers.”    

Jack Kelly says how his teacher helps him with his work, “She helps me stay on top of things, helps me stay focused, helps me plan for the next day, and helps me figure out what I have to work on.”  

Progress reports are emails sent to every student by their SAIL teacher so they can check their grades and see what they have coming up the following week.   

I asked Renee Herndon what strategies she uses to help succeed “The progress reports and revisiting it every day talking about how we prioritize, I think one of the strategies it to Really get to know the student’s interest and try and tap into what motivates them, so each student is different, each student learns differently.”   


SAIL has helped countless students graduate from McNicholas, and it is special to see people succeed in something that they did not think was possible. SAIL is a place where students gain confidence and skills that will help in the future.  

Mary Kiger, SAIL teacher, says what her greatest accomplishment is “any time a student overcomes a barrier, I think that’s a success.”  


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