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Deaf Is.. Career Examples... Teacher

carpenter Sean Kelly

Hi! I’m Mary Silvestri. I’m a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in a public school. My ‘home school’ is the high school. I’m there most of the time. - one period a day for one-on-one tutoring, one period a day for teaching ASL I (American Sign Language). For two mornings a week, I’m at an elementary school working with 3-4 students, two periods a week teaching Sign Language to a developmentally delayed class, six periods a week to see 1-2 high school students at a time and the rest of my schedule is devoted to consultation, working on a DHH student newsletter, and monitoring audiologicals and FM equipment.

How did I get interested in becoming a teacher?

I went to Gallaudet University as a Special Student during my senior year of college in another city. I decided to enter a field so I could work with other deaf and hard of hearing individuals. At that time, the Education Dept. had the most appeal to me. I have a Masters degree in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education. I also have my ASL TA certification, which isn't required for my job, but it's good to have.

Life in a public School

I have intelligible speech so others can usually understand me. I don't always understand most staff members unless they look at me and are easy to lipread. Also, some interpreters work in school and I communicate easily with them. I do use an interpreter when I teach ASL I class. I use an interpreter to help me with classroom management because high school students love to talk and also to bring awareness of environmental noise. For example, the room I use this year is different from other years. The walls are very thin and the class next door is always showing movies such as the third Batman movie which distract my students! I would not have been aware of this without an interpreter. I probably would've felt they were all misbehaving.


There are some extra things that help me teach in the public school. I have an interpreter for all school-related meetings. I also need to have a TTY. The staff have the understanding that I use e-mail the way hearing people use the phone. They also need awareness and understanding that I use a Wyndtell pager.

Other deaf teachers in public schools

There aren’t many deaf or hard of hearing individuals working in public schools in America. I wish there more! Being a Deaf staff person in a public school helps build an awareness of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. A number of people use me as a resource person for information. Every year my job is different. For example, in previous years I would function as an itinerant teacher at a number of different schools. This year, one elementary school happens to have a number of deaf and hard of hearing students so I just go to two schools. I don’t how my schedule will shape up for next year but I find the challenges always interesting and a good way to learn more. I really like my job and feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.