The Kentucky Educators for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KYEDHH) has established an Educator Spotlight as a way to recognize educators for their dedication and professionalism. KYEDHH members have an opportunity to nominate an outstanding educator for his or her special contributions to students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
The KYEDHH Educator Spotlight will run throughout the school year. Each month, at least one educator will be selected from those nominated. The spotlight will be a regular feature on Kentucky Teacher.
The August Educator Spotlight is a special edition honoring Shannon Heath McClain, a teacher from the Kentucky School for the Deaf who recently passed away.
Shannon Heath McClain was a hippy by nature, a lover of music, an amazing chef and a dedicated teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community of students in Kentucky.
McClain joined the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) family in 2007 as a middle school teacher and always commented that KSD was his dream job. He continued on with his career as a high school English teacher until May, when he lost his battle with colon cancer at the age of 45.
As many people who knew him would say, McClain had “Deaf heart.” He loved KSD students and staff, and he demonstrated his passion for teaching with a high respect for Deaf culture, American Sign Language and the deaf community. He worked diligently as a cross country coach, Student Body Government sponsor, Book Club sponsor, Monster Walk Parade leader, Academic Bowl team coach and served both as a representative for KSD and as the webpage master for KYEDHH.
McClain worked countless hours to serve his students and demonstrated constant respect for them. Students in his classes knew that they were expected to succeed in class and in life. As one of his students wrote to him in an essay about gratitude, “I am thanking you for everything. You always supported and encourage(d) me, no matter what.”
During his teaching years, McClain fell in love with the English language and words. As he worked with his students by trying new writing strategies and bilingual teaching methods, he tried to convince those students that nouns, verbs and adjectives were exciting and worth their time to learn. It was evident in the students’ writing that they were catching on to what he was preaching.
“When I was struggling with English, you still help(ed) me and believe(ed) that I will be success(ful),” one student wrote about McClain.
Students felt safe and confident with Heath as he instilled in them a “Deaf Can” attitude with every lesson he taught. He also brought new life to technology at KSD and quickly became the go-to man for instructional staff for their daily technology needs. He used the latest and newest websites, apps and devices as he quickly discovered that he could use technology to motivate his deaf and hard-of-hearing students to learn and apply the English language.
The field of deaf and hard-of-hearing educators in our Commonwealth has truly lost an amazing teacher and genuine friend. McClain was a kind spirit that continues to inspire us as we move forward with our lives. He will be sorely missed, but especially by the students who were fortunate enough to call him their teacher.
As one of his graduating seniors wrote in his final essay, “You did not give up on me. I am glad that you didn’t. You are a good role model. You taught me in right ways and to be a gentleman.”
The Kentucky Educators for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s Information Sharing Committee consists of teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing throughout Kentucky. KYEDHH President Emily Lomax can be reached at email@example.com.