How a mother's love started a school for kids with learning differences

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Monday, May 1, 2023
How a mother's love started a school for kids who learn differently
Pamela Tate Draper saw her son struggling in a typical classroom setting. That's why she decided to create Gateway Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware.

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- "I had no intention on ever going into education, but my youngest son had a lot of challenges in school," said Pamela Tate Draper. "He is on the autism spectrum, very bright, but the typical or the traditional school classroom was not a good fit for him."

Tate Draper had an epiphany when learning about the Lab School of Washington, which was established in 1967 and is specifically tailored to students with learning differences. She looked to its founder, Sally Lieberman Smith, for guidance on how to start something similar in Delaware.

A board was formed in 2007 and the school was launched in 2011. It was originally known as Gateway Lab School, but has since changed its name to Gateway Charter School. With grades three through eight and a kindergarten class, the school prides itself on smaller classrooms and a focus on arts education.

"Our music program has been one of the highlights at Gateway," said Tate Draper. "We use the arts to capitalize on those students' strengths and interests and to help them find out how they best learn."

12-year-old student, Jared Gutierrez Lopez, says Gateway helped him overcome his challenges with reading skills. And now, his music skills are even more accelerated.

"First day I walked in, honestly, that changed my life," he said. "I play the triple cello in a steel band. It took me about a week to figure it out, but I did it."

Hearing success stories like this is what keeps Tate Draper involved. She even plans to expand to include a first and second grade level.

"It's great to come to work every day and see what I had hoped for my son being realized in the lives of all the children that we serve," she said.

To learn more about Gateway Charter School, visit their website.

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