MONMOUTH – The Teaching Research Institute and the Regional Resource Center on Deafness each were awarded $800,000 over the course of four years by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The funding is to recruit and train personnel to meet the needs of students who are deaf and/or deaf-blind (simultaneous vision and hearing impairment). The two grant awards were among only 23 that were awarded nationally.
“Extending a Legacy: Training Personnel to Serve School Age Children in Low Incidence Disabilities through the Development of Helen Keller Fellows” is a collaborative effort between WOU’s Teaching Research Institute and nine geographically dispersed universities (Boston College, East Carolina University, Hunter College of City University of New York, San Francisco State University, Texas Tech University, University of Alabama – Birmingham, University of Arizona, University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of Utah), to address the critical shortage of qualified personnel in low incidence disabilities with particular emphasis on simultaneous vision and hearing impairment (deaf-blindness).
“Helen Keller Fellows” is a collaborative endeavor among each university’s master’s degree program in low incidence disabilities to develop a cadre of geographically dispersed and networked teacher leaders who will be able to provide evidence-based practices and positively impact the broader educational system.
“Children with deaf-blindness have immense and diverse learning needs. This program will train teachers in effective strategies to help these students learn,” stated Ella Taylor, Helen Keller Fellows project director. “Our goal is to lessen the gap between children with deaf-blindness and the professional expertise required to meet their educational needs”.
The second grant, rated ninth out of 48 proposals, helps support WOU’s bachelor’s program in American Sign Language/English Interpreting, which prepares educational interpreters able to serve hard of hearing and deaf children (birth to 21 years). This funding opportunity provides stipends that cover the majority of tuition expenses for students and allows qualified individuals to consider the field of educational interpreting who might not otherwise have the resources to attend this professional preparation program.
The ASL/English Interpreting program is the only bachelor’s degree interpreter education program in the Pacific Northwest, however, its national reputation attracts students from throughout the United States. Traditionally half of the accepted students are selected from other states and transfer to WOU to complete this major. WOU also participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange program which provides out-of-state tuition reductions to students in participating Western states. This degree program is housed in WOU’s Regional Resource Center on Deafness, along with six other deafness-related degree, continuing education, and technical assistance programs.
Background on deaf-blindness: Fewer than six percent of children with deaf-blindness are served by a teacher with training in deaf-blindness. Learners who have both hearing and vision losses require specific instructional techniques to learn to communicate, to develop concepts, to learn to interact, gain mobility and acquire independent living, academic, and vocational skills. The availability of qualified special educators to serve children with disabilities nationwide remains a critical concern and is especially severe for students with simultaneous vision and hearing impairments. However, it would be impossible to produce enough classroom teachers to guarantee that each child with deaf-blindness has a teacher with a graduate degree in the field.
A more realistic solution is to identify and train highly qualified “teacher leaders” to extend the reach of the state technical assistance projects in order to support district level mentoring and sustained professional development. The development of such a cadre would assist the field by providing coaching/mentoring to their educational colleagues, enhancing instructional programs, and providing job-embedded professional development within the least restrictive educational environment.
Other ASL/English Interpreting program facts:
- Longevity: Since 1974, WOU has been preparing professional interpreters to work with children and adults who are deaf. WOU has offered the nationally-recognized bachelor’s program since 1993 and graduated 198 students.
- Quality faculty: Elisa Maroney, associate professor and coordinator, holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of New Mexico, ASLTA Qualified Certification, and Ed: K-12 certification from the RID. Maroney is one of 13 commissioners on the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education, the accrediting organization of interpreter training programs.
- Quality faculty: Amanda Smith, assistant professor, obtained a master’s in interpreter pedagogy from Northeastern University and holds both the RID Specialist Certificate: Legal and the National Interpreter Certification Master. Smith serves as a national field consultant for a FIPSE grant entitled “Optimizing and Disseminating Proven Reforms in Interpreter Education.”
- Incorporating best practices: As a result of employing a teaching faculty who themselves are current with the research and best practices in their field, current research, theory, and effective practices in interpretation (e.g., demand-control schema) are infused throughout the interpreting program curriculum.
- Diverse student body: WOU takes great pride in the high record of students on campus, who will be the first in their family to graduate from a four-year university. Fifty-five percent of the 2008 and 2009 interpreting classes will be the first in their families to graduate from college.
- Employment rate: Virtually all of our graduates are employed as interpreters or are pursuing higher education. In a review of recent graduates, 77 percent were working specifically as educational interpreters, and 11 percent were pursuing higher education.
- Employment ready graduates: Program seniors are evaluated using the nationally standardized Educational Interpreting Performance Assessment. Ninety-three percent of our graduates are qualified to work in states where a 3.0 minimum is required, and 40 percent of our graduates are qualified to work in states with a 3.5 minimum.
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Cheryl Davis, Ph.D., Regional Resource Center on Deafness
503-838-8053 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ella Taylor, Ph.D. Teaching Research Institute
503-858-8589 or email@example.com