Jane Beamish, West Irondequoit Central School District

My journey to becoming a teacher of deaf/hard of hearing students started when I was in high school and had the opportunity to participate in a Career Investigation Program (CIP). My career experience was working in the Saratoga-Warren NY BOCES Hearing Impaired Program. BOCES is a network of regional programs providing special services to students with disabilities, along with vocational and technical education programs.

That was the very beginning. I loved every minute of it. One of the teachers had just finished her Master’s degree program at New York’s State University College at Geneseo, leading me to my next step. I graduated from Geneseo with an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education in 1986, followed by a Master’s Degree in Education of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired in 1987.

My first teaching job was working in a program very similar to that of my CIP experience, the Livingston-Steuben-Wyoming (now Genesee Valley) BOCES. Our program served deaf/hard of hearing students from nine local districts. My first four years, I taught Pre-K through 4th grade. Our students were mainstreamed for subjects they were successful in, and they remained in our classroom for other subjects, generally language and reading. Occasionally, we arranged a “reverse mainstreaming” situation, with regular education students joining our D/HH students for instruction in our classroom. After four years of loving primary education, I was transferred to the junior-senior high school program. Grades 7-12 were quite a challenge, especially as I found myself teaching subjects such as Global Studies I, Life Skills Reading, and high school English courses. After a year of transition, I found that I also loved teaching at this level, much to my surprise. I remained for four more years.

In 1996, the Genesee Valley BOCES Hearing Impaired Program folded. Luckily, the West Irondequoit Central School District was hiring! West Irondequoit is a suburb of Rochester, NY. Instead of working for a regional program, I work directly for a school district, providing itinerant services to approximately 15 students, grades K-12. All my students are oral, based on their hearing levels and personal preferences.

Students eligible for direct service receive academic support for any classroom topics and issues which may arise. Other student goals include, but are not limited to, language development, grammar, hearing aid and FM system knowledge and troubleshooting, usage of assistive devices, and instruction focused on related services such as notetaking. I provide service ranging from 90 minutes per day to as little as 30 minutes per week. Some of my students who do not receive direct service; I provide consultation to their classroom teachers.

My unique training as a teacher of deaf/hard of hearing has created other interesting facets of my job. One of my roles is Case Manager for our district’s students who attend out of district placements such as Rochester School for the Deaf. I observe once or twice a year, attend annual reviews and other meetings, and act as liaison among parents, Rochester School for the Deaf, and the home district. I also function as a sort of informal coordinator for additional student services such as interpreting or notetaking. In this role, I provide or coordinate training for notetakers, as well as hold meetings to ensure that notetaker and/or interpreter procedures and policies are uniform between grade levels.

Every day, every year, brings new experiences and memories. There was Tanya, who just beamed her way through the day she first got her hearing aids and listened to Christmas carols. There was Mike, who was relieved beyond words when he passed his English Competency Exam and could graduate from high school with a regular diploma. There was Robby, who began kindergarten with an unidentified hearing loss and a less than 1st percentile language level and learned to read at grade level by 5th grade. There was Tim, who, when he saw me come into his classroom every day, gave me the biggest, toothiest grin. There was Kelsey, who learned that the stock market crash was not a building that was imploded. Every day of my career has been different, every day has had some challenge, and every day has had some fun. I was blessed to know that this was my chosen career early in life, and I’ve continued to be blessed working in a field which is as much an avocation as a vocation.

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