“There is never just one thing that leads to success for anyone. I feel it is always a combination of passion, dedication, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time.” Lauren Conrad
My passion for learning about Deafness started at age nine when I received a toy french poodle for my birthday. After 2 weeks my family and I discovered “Bouncer” was Deaf. The vet suggested to kill him. I begged my parents to allow me to teach it ASL, even though I did not know any signs at all. I created my own hand gestures and with hard work, dedication that dog learned about 15 signs. The other daily discoveries I made, such as flicking the lights to get him to come out from under the bed, banging my foot on the floor to send a vibration towards him so that when he looked around he could see me sign “Come”, were the begin discoveries of Deaf Culture. In High School I failed at French, and I’m French! After receiving a “D” I begged the principal to let me take a college level ASL course. To my surprise I passed with an A and learned intelligence does not equate to one’s age. During High School my passion continued as I befriended a new student from Germany, and you guessed it, she was Deaf. Our friendship remains today. After entering the University I wanted to be a teacher, and in learning how to teach phonics I had to know, “How did the Deaf learn to read, if not by sound?” Receiving my degree I moved to Maui and when asked if I spoke another language, I boldly put down ASL. I was not fluent and today would scoff at any twenty year old teacher who was self taught in sign, if she ever declared she knew the language. I was placed in a self contained Deaf Ed classroom, and with my drawing ability, sense of humor, and high expectations these students flourished.
My Passion for Deaf education was not to be replaced. I continued learning, meeting Deaf professionals, voicing off for two years, and eventually passed the eyes of the Deaf Community and was welcomed into their private, real passionate signed conversations. This insight lead me into fascinating discoveries about linguistics, being a minority, having a sense of identity, and the various roles a teacher of the deaf must play to create a successful bilingual bicultural school environment with parents who were invested in learning the language of sign, instead of simply being focused on speech. After obtaining my Master’s in Deaf Ed I wanted to know about how the Deaf are perceived in other countries. I lived in Scotland for 8 months and conducted observations and wrote articles. My message of equality for Deaf people in terms of access to sign and job opportunity was received with shock and awe. I was preaching that ASL is equal to English and yet the scholars and medical profession scoffed. My most recent presentation to a group of hearing parents who had Deaf and Hard of Hearing high school aged students lead me to meet Dr Ramos, the current Principal of the Hawaii School for the Deaf. He insisted I obtain a PhD. I didn’t think I needed to because I felt I was a master in my field and that I was not interested in a pay increase. He said one thing that has gotten me to sign up for the EdD, and that was, “Beth, they will listen to you more.”
I want to be heard. I want my passion to uplift the status of Deaf youths and adults to be heard. I want parents of Deaf students with recent cochlear implants to still consider the cultural view of Deafness. I want the reading skills of Deaf youths to be supported in classroom that don’t separate the Deaf learner, but allow them to receive full access to language, full pride in who they are, and function at higher levels of language. My passion will never end. And in more ways than ever, the message I want to share is needed now more than ever.