The Hill School of Wilmington

The Hill Program


A learning difference is a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to receive, process, store and respond to information and affects approximately 6-8% of school age children and continues into adulthood. The term is used to describe the seeming unexplained difficulty a person of at least average intelligence has in acquiring basic academic skills. These skills are essential for success at school and work, and for coping with life in general.

Learning differences can affect a person's ability and achievement in the areas of:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Language and symbols
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics


The half-day school model is the basis for the program offered at The Hill Center in Durham, North Carolina and is the model for The Hill School of Wilmington. Students receive direct instruction in reading, written language, and math at HSW and attend their base school for the other half of the day. The base school may be a regional public school, a private school, or home school. 

Through duplication of all aspects of The Hill Center's half day program, including its philosophy, curriculum, and operating standards, systemic change occurs in students' skill sets. This model requires teachers to complete certification in Hill methodology in order to replicate desired achievement results for students with LD and/or ADHD.

The evidence-based Hill methodology curriculum consists of reading, written language, and math instruction. The language arts program, which is based on the work of Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham, consists of a multisensory structured approach to reading and written language. The reading class uses systematic phonics instruction for word attack and emphasizes word recognition through phonological awareness exercises, decoding, vocabulary development, fluency drills, oral and silent reading, as well as reading comprehension. Written language instruction includes spelling, paragraph dictation, copying, handwriting, grammar and mechanics, creative writing, and composition. Math classes provide multisensory instruction with emphasis on automatic recall of math facts, developing number concepts, following mathematical procedures, speed and accuracy in computation, and increased problem solving skills. The Hill methodology was developed by The Hill Center in Durham which is approved by the IMSLEC (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council).


In June of 2008, a community meeting was held at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington by a group of educators, professionals, and parents who were interested in starting a school for children with learning differences. At the meeting, a presentation was made by The Hill Center, a highly successful program in Durham, North Carolina with a 30-year history of documented success for students with learning differences. After that meeting, a Board of Directors was formed and they began working to create The Hill School of Wilmington. Very successful fund raising efforts allowed the Board to purchase the replication from The Hill Center within a matter of months and a site was subsequently secured through the generosity of St. James (Episcopal) Parish in downtown Wilmington. The school received its 501(c)3 status in April 2009.

Dr. Dawn Hodges, Founding Director  2010-2016

In February of 2010, the Board of Directors hired a Director for the Hill School of Wilmington. Dawn Hodges, a Wilmington native, completed her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University. She began work on her master's degree at UNC and NCSU with completion of her coursework at UNCW. After teaching for almost 9 years in New Hanover County and Wake County, she joined a team of parents and educators who founded a school for academically gifted students, Wilmington Academy of Arts & Sciences. With over 18 years of classroom and administrative experience in both elementary and middle school, she was also on staff at the Watson School of Education at UNCW as the Project Coordinator for the Hill Center-Brunswick County Partnership. In May of 2012, she graduated from UNCW with her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. 

Susan Mixon Harrell, Executive Director  2016 - Present

The Board of Directors hired Susan Mixon Harrell in July, 2016. Ms. Harrell has over 35 years of experience in the field of education and is NC Certified in Exceptional Children/Learning Disabilities as well as certified by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practioners and the International Dyslexia Association.  She has served as a special education teacher in public and private schools and has tutored in a private practice for students with dyslexia.  Ms. Harrell came to the Hill School from Cape Fear Academy where she served in many roles, including Director of Admission and Director of Advancement. 


  • Beth Chadwick, President
  • Porter E. Young, Vice-President
  • Dr. Karen Kirk, Secretary/Past President
  • John Meehl, Treasurer
  • Dawn Grieb
  • Julie H. Lancaster
  • Dr. Thomas E. Mates
  • Amy Brown North
  • Faison Sutton
  • Virginia C. Woodruff

News & Events

Posted Oct 31, 2017
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Admissions Open House and Financial Aid Session
Event date: January 23, 2018
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PowerPoint Slides from "Technology Tools...
Posted Dec 07, 2017
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