Norma McAdam

[Age 77] A teacher, she strived to provide more and improved educational opportunities for dyslexic students.

March 31, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun Reporter

Norma R. McAdam, who helped to improve educational opportunities for dyslexic students, died Monday of complications from surgery at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. She was 77 and lived in Ruxton.

Norma Ragonese was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and moved with her family to a home on Woodbourne Avenue in 1940.

She was a 1947 graduate of Western High School and earned a bachelor's degree in social studies from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1951.

Mrs. McAdam began teaching at Hampstead Hill Elementary School in the early 1950s.

In the 1960s, she became an active member of the Maryland branch of the Orton Society, now the International Dyslexia Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates helping students decode the written language by teaching phonics.

Her focus on dyslexic students started early in her career and became a personal cause when her two sons were diagnosed with dyslexia and she found there were few schools or programs available to help them.

"It was while she was teaching in city public schools that she correlated behavioral problems in the classroom with the inability to read, whether due to learning disabilities or inadequate instruction," said a daughter, Margaret McAdam Ondov of Clarksville.

Over the years, she testified on 50 state and federal special-education measures and served on committees and task forces established to help dyslexic students, her daughter said.

"Norma was a pioneer, single-minded of purpose and forthright. She knew her stuff and always stuck by her guns," said Jan Paul Miller, a former educator. "She was not only concerned with the education of her own children but also for ... others."

She served as president in the mid-1970s of the local chapter of the Metropolitan Baltimore Association of Children with Learning Disabilities.

During the 1980s, Mrs. McAdam established Project Succeed, a Baltimore County program that trained educators how to teach their students phonetically.

She continued training tutors until 2002 for the Maryland Association of Dyslexic Adults and Youths, now known as the Dyslexia Tutoring Program.

"She was driven to try and change the system to make things better for these students who were bright but fell between the cracks. School was a struggle for them," said Ann M. Vinup, whose two children are dyslexic.

Mrs. McAdam was still tutoring dyslexic student in her home until shortly before her death, family members said.

Beverly Max, a friend of 40 years, became acquainted with Mrs. McAdam after her child had been diagnosed with dyslexia.

"She was dedicated in getting help from the state and local government to get the necessary financing so students who were dyslexic could receive private tutoring or attend out-of-state schools," Mrs. Max said.

Mrs. McAdam and her husband of 50 years, Joseph F. McAdam III, who survives her, lived on Martha's Vineyard for three years before returning to Ruxton.

Mrs. McAdam was a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Boyce and Carrollton avenues, Ruxton, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today.

Also surviving are a son, Michael Paul McAdam of West Palm Beach, Fla.; another daughter, Karoline McAdam Obora of Naperville, Ill.; two brothers, Paul Philip Ragonese of Timonium and Edward Bernard Ragonese of Maui, Hawaii; and seven grandchildren. A son, Joseph F. McAdam IV, died in 1994.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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