Founding director Marsha Lewis stands with Cathy Byers, director of public relations and communications, at the top of the staircase at the Lewis School in Princeton. (Photo by Alexandra Yearly.)

The Lewis School founding director Marsha Lewis came to Princeton with a mission: to provide for others the multisensory educational approach she had needed as a student.

In 1973, the doors opened at the Lewis School.

Many students at the school are talented, intelligent and often creative, but have language-based learning problems, such as ADD or dyslexia. But there are also students who just want the advantage of a multisensory education, Lewis said.

Each student may have a different experience at the school. Some students attend the school full time, others only need a transitional year before starting at a new school and some only go to Lewis for additional help with studies at their primary learning institutions. Classes are available from preschool to college and college preparatory.

Many students come from beyond the Princeton area; students have traveled from as far away as Texas, Montreal and even China.

Students preparing for college all write their own “personal journey,” which is the student’s story of his or her educational experiences.

Lewis was born in the mountains of British Columbia and educated in a one-room schoolhouse with Tsimshian Indian classmates. She also had dyslexia, and found that the small, multisensory learning environment was one that suited her needs.

“Just the tendency of my peers to read out loud, to sing, to be part of a verbal culture and bring it to the educational environment were a wonderful help to me,” Lewis said.

Diagnosed as dyslexic when she was 21, Lewis came to Princeton because of research happening in the New York and Boston area. There were several people in Princeton who supported her and her mission, and so she decided to stay in Princeton and see if she could make a difference in an area of educational excellence, Lewis said.

“I wanted to put my ideas to the ultimate test, and if I could make it here and really make a difference that was valuable, meaningful, then we could really have a chance to do something wonderful,” Lewis said. “Because this is Mecca. This is one of the rare centers of educational excellence on the planet that has persisted for a long period of time.”

The Lewis School has another campus at the Princeton Theological Seminary, where high school students walk the same campus as students and professors from the college.

“There’s opportunity after opportunity here,” Lewis said. “And yet, as kind as people are, they are rigorous about what they expect, and I love that.”

The Lewis School also sets very high expectations. When a student prepares to transition from the Lewis School to another school, the student should be functioning at least a year and a half above the grade he or she is going into, Lewis said.

Teachers are all trained at the Lewis Clinic in different learning techniques and strategies.

Plans are also in the works to build a third Lewis School location that is LEED-certified and will provide a multisensory educational approach for preschool children.

The Lewis School is located at 53 Bayard Lane in Princeton. For more information, call (609) 924-8120. On the web: lewisschool.org.