By Anthony Elia, NJEA Preservice Vice President
Becoming a teacher has been my passion since I was in the second grade, but it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I had decided I wanted to be a teacher for the d/Deaf* and hard of hearing. Many people have asked me why I chose this path.
I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at the age of three and initially received instruction in what is known as the oral approach to learning speech and language. At the age of 10, however, I received a cochlear implant, which is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. Until then, I had worn hearing aids.
I would not be where I am today without the help I received from the dedicated teachers, paraprofessionals and speech therapists I have had over the years. As an early elementary school student, I attended a school in Midland Park that had an excellent program for persons with hearing impairments, but in fifth grade I was mainstreamed into my local public school in Fair Lawn. I am currently a senior at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), preparing to continue toward earning a master’s degree there.
TCNJ does a phenomenal job preparing educators to work in the field of d/Deaf and hard of hearing education. The program begins with speech and language classes where students work with audiograms, which are a graphic representation of hearing ability. Students take three levels of American Sign Language classes, which are a lot of fun; you are required to test what you know by going to d/Deaf events in the community and signing.
In addition, TCNJ gets students started with field experience early in their college career. I am currently completing my final practicum experience in a fifth-grade history classroom at Katzenbach School for the Deaf. I previously experienced preschool at Summit Speech School. Having the chance to be able to go to these schools and practice teaching before actually entering the d/Deaf and hard of hearing field is invaluable, and I am thankful for that opportunity.
I recommend pursuing a degree in d/Deaf and hard of hearing education for anyone interested in teaching. It is challenging but, rewarding.
I look forward to being a teacher of the d/Deaf, working with d/Deaf and hard of hearing children, and creating the next generation of leaders in education and in NJEA.
*d/Deaf is used to differentiate between “deaf” meaning a loss of hearing, and “Deaf,” in reference to the Deaf community.
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