Beth Otto, Kaley Elementary School

I think I was born to be a teacher. Even as a child, I would respond that I wanted to be a teacher and work with special needs students when I grew up. I felt that given appropriate support, deaf children had the potential to be as successful as their hearing peers. My mother was a teacher of the deaf who taught her students to listen and speak. I also spent a few weeks at the Helen Beebe Clinic in Pennsylvania, learning the auditory-verbal method from one of the pioneers. I knew this would be my lifelong goal – to bring the opportunity to speak and listen to my deaf students.

I received my degree in Deaf Education from Kent State University. The program philosophy at that time was auditory/oral, and we were not taught sign language. We learned about hearing loss, the sounds heard by children with varying audiograms, and bringing sound to children with the best possible hearing aids.

For 27 years, I have worked with 3 and 4 year old students in an auditory-oral public school program at Kaley Elementary School in Orlando, FL. My teaching philosophy has remained the same. However, the onset of better amplification, such as digital hearing aids & cochlear implants, has made my job is easier and the resulting language and voice quality of our students is phenomenal. My classroom is full of language, language, language in a natural presentation to help children make up for lost language opportunities. I also invite hearing children to participate twice a week in our class. This provides peer language interaction for my deaf/hard of hearing children, promotes socialization skills, and helps me keep a healthy perspective of normal language development.

The key to any successful deaf child, regardless of the language modality, is teamwork between the parent and the professional. As professionals, we must recognize that the parent will always be their child’s teacher…for a lifetime. Teachers are there to guide, assist, and support the parent. Sometimes, we may think that parents don’t care, but they may just not know what to do. My classroom is always open to parents. I invite them to observe, volunteer, and participate in therapy sessions. I also provide them with homework activities, after first demonstrating what to do.

Continued professional development is critical. Belonging to professional organizations helps me share ideas and information with others. Even though I’ve taught for many years, I attend AG Bell Conventions, conferences provided by the Cochlear Implant centers and companies, and language development workshops. Technology for deaf/hard of hearing individuals is constantly changing. It is important for me to know these changes and their potential for my students. I also need to be a resource for families.

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