Colleen Ticherich, BCSD sign language interpreter, and Alice Kenny, intinerary teacher of the deaf for the Education Service Center for Cuyahoga County, have been awarded a $3000 grant from the Berea Education Foundation to financially assist them in adapting the “Shared Reading Program” into the district’s program for hard of hearing students. Ticherich and Kenny recognize that it is critical for the students to have direct communication with their peers and teachers. Ticherich states, “Having regular monthly gatherings of these students provides them with a peer group they do not find on a daily basis anywhere else.” The “Shared Reading Project” will provide that opportunity. Developed by the Clerc Center at Gallaudet University, the “Shared Reading Project” includes four tiers, each of which would be used in their plan.
The first tier in the program will provide students with guest speakers and career shadowing experiences with deaf professionals from the area. Deaf professionals can be found in all walks of life and can include graphic artists, engineers, the director of the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center, professors, mechanics, and more. The guest speakers would share their experiences in school and college as well the struggles and successes they faced. The mode of communication chosen by their parents and families, i.e. oral, sign, total communication, mainstreamed, etc., will help provide a common bond and sense of community.
Peer model tutors from within the district are the focus of Tier Two. Each peer model will receive training in working with the students to inspire excellence, develop literacy, and empower our deaf and hard of hearing students as well as non-verbal students. The district’s non-verbal students would also benefit from visual communication through the monthly gatherings at a central school building. Ticherich is hoping the student mentoring program will develop into a student-to-student mentoring program that is credit-bearing for high school students. Peer mentoring would also be used as a “homework help” program, with deaf students tutoring younger students in their own language. Tier Two of the program will begin after the district’s inservice on October 24.
The “Shared Reading Project” comprises Tier Three. This project is designed to teach people how to read to deaf children by using American Sign Language (ASL) as well as using different appropriate strategies when sharing books. In the Shared Reading Program (SRP) older students and deaf community members will receive training in how to read to as well as with the district’s younger students when they meet in a monthly meeting. A portion of the grant money will be used to purchase a variety of “book bags” from the Clerc Center. Each bag will contain a book, a DVD with a signed version of the book by a native ASL user for mentor/parent/student to use for practice, reading tips, and a guide containing activities. The mentees can borrow a bag for a week at a time for practice at home.
At Tier Four, ASL classes and/or sign clubs will be established at each of the district’s buildings. The clubs would be open to all students, not just those who are in the same class or grade level of a DHH student from that school. Direct communication (in sign) is the critical factor in building relationships; the skill level of the signer is not as important as direct communication. During the duration of the project family reading logs and mentor journals will be maintained, and deaf surveys will be completed at its beginning and end. The program can continue without incurring additional costs once the materials have been purchased and the mentors have been trained. The numbers from the sign club will be used as the main measurement of the project’s success.
Colleen Ticherich has worked as a language interpreter for the past six years. She also serves as a sign language interpreter for medical, religious, and recreational purposes. Ticherich teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at Cleveland State University and is the advisor of an ASL club at Middleburg Jr. High School. Alice Kenny is also a teacher of the deaf. She is contracted through the ESC and is responsible for all deaf students in the BCSD including any students with learning needs connected with deaf students.