Heidi Givens

Heidi Givens

Throughout my time writing for Kentucky Teacher, I have tried to provide awareness about deafness and the education of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. I have done my best to give voice to this unique group of students and the community and culture they represent. With September 22-29 being National Deaf Awareness Week, I deem it my final responsibility to these students to spotlight their amazing achievements.

An informal survey shows that only about one-third of all Kentucky school districts have a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing My research also revealed that there are children with hearing loss in over 40 districts where there are no teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. Even though these students face educational barriers daily, they are an inspiration to me as an educator.

In the years since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act much has been done to improve the education of students with hearing loss. I am proud to be part of an amazing group of educators that do what they can to provide a high quality education to these students. Sadly, though, some teachers and administrators continue to believe deaf and hard-of-hearing children cannot learn to read above a fourth-grade level. They set extremely low expectations for students because they do not believe they can succeed. To all of them, I say read just a small sampling of the responses I received from DHH teachers from around the state that highlight the achievement and accomplishments of deaf and hard of hearing students:

  • A high school student was recently accepted into the National Honor Society.
  • A middle school student who also has cognitive disabilities asks daily for at least two reading homework assignments. The student’s guardian shares that she loves to do reading homework, and can do it without any help.
  • A middle school student plays on the school, city, and traveling softball teams while taking honors math and making straight As.
  • A high school student recently received an invitation to apply for the National Honor Society.
  • Students have won the Youth Salute Awards from the National Council on Youth Leadership.
  • More than 30 students in first grade through high school participate in the annual DHH Spelling Bee in Bowling Green; many traveling more than an hour to take part. These students spell words that come from the Scripps National Spelling Bee lists!
  • A middle school student placed in the top 5 in his school’s spelling bee, beating out almost 800 students who do not have hearing loss!
  • Students have participated in the Governor School for the Arts program in theatre performance.
  • A high school student holds down a part time job while participating in athletics and maintaining a 3.0 GPA.
  • A high school student, who had previously traveled to Washington D.C. to present her art work at the White House, will be a keynote speaker at this fall’s KYAEA conference reflecting on how art has influenced her life.
  • Two high school students participated in the Youth Leadership Camp in Oregon this past summer.
  • A student received Second Place at the state 4-H competition.
  • Twenty high school students entered exhibits in a county 4-H Rally Day, earning two grand championships, 13 class championships, 52 blue ribbons, 36 red ribbons and eight white ribbons. They also were awarded more than $350 for their efforts. Eight students subsequently entered exhibits in the Kentucky State Fair where they earned one class championship and two blue ribbons.
  • Middle and high school students are leading sign language clubs in their schools and communities to increase sensitivity and cultural awareness.
  • A high school student is debuting her artwork at the Cincinnati Comic Expo.  She is one of  two minors ever asked to participate in this event.
  •  Students who are deaf and hard of hearing across Kentucky are receiving proficient and distinguished ratings on the K-PREP!

I could go on and on sharing all the amazing achievements of students who are deaf and hard of hearing; however, I do have a page limit. Needless to say, all children have the potential to be leaders in academics, athletics, community service, and any other area they choose.  We just need to give them opportunities by providing them the best education possible in a language rich environment.  We need to set high expectations for all students who have a hearing loss and believe that DHH children can do ANYTHING hearing children can do, except hear!

Editor’s note: Due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act students’ names, school and district information were omitted from this article.

Heidi Givens, an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Daviess County schools, was selected as the 2013 Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012.  She and Allison Hunt, an AP Human Geography teacher at Manual High School in Jefferson County and the 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year, are alternating monthly column-writing duties throughout their reigns. Their columns run the last Thursday of the month.