Cheryl Thornton, Magnolia Speech School

My name is Cheryl Thornton, and I have taught in an auditory oral setting for twenty-three years at Magnolia Speech School in Jackson, Mississippi. During this period, I have seen many exciting changes.

I was married with two children when I decided to return to college. I had always dreamed of teaching, but was unsure of an area of emphasis. I began in speech pathology. The professor in one of my speech classes was the director of Magnolia Speech School. As an outside assignment he sent us to tour the school. After two hours of observing teachers and children, I fell in love with the whole program. When I completed my deaf education degree at Mississippi College, I was offered a teaching job at the school. I was delighted to become an integral part of this teaching team and the school.

In the beginning of my teaching experience, the deaf/hard of hearing children were taught in a very structured method with a lot of repetition. Language instruction was controlled and well-thought out. Children were taught to use hearing aids, along with any residual hearing. Their listening skills were fair considering how hard they had to work to understand speech. Mostly, speech reading was used for the deaf/hard of hearing children to really understand conversation.

As technology improved, so did my students’ listening skills and intelligibility. Learning came with a little more ease. In 1996, one of my students, a four-year-old girl, received a cochlear implant. Her implant had been turned on for about three months when we were routinely doing our morning “who’s here?” question work. She was holding pictures of her classmates and rubbed her fingernail over the rough side of Velcro on the back of the pictures. She instantly stopped, looked at me and said, “I hear that!” She continued to rub the Velcro as we both listened. I cried when I realized what she could hear now and had never heard before.

I am continually amazed, almost on a daily basis, with the progress my students make. They continue to listen well, to comprehend language, and verbalize using intelligible speech.

It has been an honor, a privilege and a blessing to teach each child that has come through my classroom. It has been a challenge, a test of my patience, and a lot of hard work. But, it has always been and always will be my passion. There is a satisfaction I cannot explain when I see my students leave Magnolia, move on into the mainstream, and succeed in regular education.



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