Teacher Feature – Christine Majeskey

Having worked at CCCBSD for 34 years, Christine Majesky has seen firsthand how much the school has changed. Christine maintains lots of enthusiasm for her work and students, and says that watching her students grow and learn is the most rewarding part of her job. When Christine first started, she was the only deaf faculty member on campus. Though the other teachers used sign language to communicate with the students, they spoke only English to each other, especially at lunch. When Dr. Mark Carlson, CCCBSD’s executive director, came to the school 14 years ago, he transitioned the school from signed exact English to ASL and hired more deaf and hard of hearing staff. With more signing around the school, Christine felt that CCCBSD’s accessibility had improved immensely.

Growing up hard of hearing, Christine always felt like it was easier to communicate with children than adults. She knew that, one day, she wanted to work with kids. After volunteering to read with children, she discovered that she might love teaching deaf students. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Special Education/Elementary Education, and from Gallaudet University with a degree in School Counseling of the Deaf. She began at CCCBSD as a counselor, but eventually transitioned to become a teacher. Now, she remains a teacher for middle and high school age students, as well as adults who take community ASL classes at CCCBSD.

Originally, Christine, she only intended to stay for about five years. Lucky for CCCBSD, she has stayed much longer and made an enormous impact on other faculty, parents, community, and, of course, students. Christine Majeskey is an integral part of the CCCBSD family, and it would be hard to imagine the school without her.

Amy Szarkowski

This summer, The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) was excited to have Dr. Amy Szarkowski join the team as the new Clinical Director. Amy’s main role is supervising and supporting the school’s clinical team. With her extensive background in Deaf education, she has spent the beginning of her tenure at CCCBSD, exploring the best ways to utilize her abilities to support the staff, the students, and the school.

For the past eleven years, Amy has worked for Boston Children’s Hospital as a psychologist and a Fellow in Psychology in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. This experience, she believes, has prepared her greatly for working with the population of students at CCCBSD. At Boston Children’s Hospital, she saw children with lots of different and unique needs, especially with reduced hearing and medical complexities. Currently, she maintains a position in the hospital’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities program (LEND), which is a federally funded program for individuals who want to learn more about working with children with disabilities and other special health care needs and their families.

Amy is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry, and teaches online at Gallaudet University in a program called Infants, Toddlers, and Families. This program educates those who want to become early-interventionists or work as early-childhood educators with Deaf or Hard of Hearing children.  Professionally, Amy wears many hats, but she loves her work and is very passionate about what she does.

Though Amy is hearing, she has established herself as a strong ally for the Deaf community. Her advocacy started when she was an undergrad in college, when she had a friend who began to lose his hearing. Wanting to support him, Amy began taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes, and inevitably fell in love with the language and Deaf culture. As a psychology student, she found it fascinating to learn how the brain works in the context of not having access to hearing. As her love of the Deaf language and culture grew, Amy began to develop an understanding of what the needs might be in their community, and how she could help.

After receiving  her undergraduate degree, Amy attended Gallaudet University, a private school primarily for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. As part of the hearing minority at this time, Amy truly immersed herself in the culture.  She recalls experiencing many anti-cochlear implant protests on campus. When she returned years later, Amy noticed enormous changes, such as a large portion of the students now have cochlear implants.

Today, as a hearing person who writes about, advocates for, and works with the Deaf community, she emphasizes the importance of knowing your limits and acknowledging your role whenever you are working with, for, or on behalf of others. She says that she has not experienced a lot of resistance because she thinks that there is a very strong need for allies in the Deaf community.

By the time Amy completed her educational endeavors, she acquired a B.S. in Psychology from Southern Oregon University, a B.S. in Health Promotion and Fitness Management from Southern Oregon University, a M.S. in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University, a Post-graduate Certificate for Providing Mental Health Services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons from Eastern Kentucky University, a M.A. in Administration and Supervision from Gallaudet University, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Gallaudet University.

After she completed her Ph.D, Amy wanted to travel the world. She applied only to jobs abroad and took a position in Japan, teaching psychology to Japanese students in English. This gave her the opportunity to look critically at what she had learned, and to determine how much of what she had been taught was culturally framed, contextualized, or taught from a Western perspective. Amy admits that this was a life-altering experience.

For a time, she says, Deaf education focused mainly on individuals who did not have access to hearing. Now, educators are beginning to recognize how important individualized learning is, and that there are many different types of learners. This is something she believes CCCBSD does well, considering how much individualized support students receive. She notes that an important characteristic of the school is that it is evolving, and, therefore, willing to make changes. With a staff full of passionate, dedicated individuals, CCCBSD strives to find new ways to better suit the unique needs of the students. We are very lucky and grateful to have someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Amy to help us meet those needs.

Dr. Mark Carlson, CCCBSD President/Executive Director  says, “Dr. Szarkowski brings a world of Deaf education knowledge and expertise to the CCCBSD students, faculty, and greater community that we have not had in the past.  We look forward to having more amazing tools at CCCBSD as we continually adapt our supports and services.”

A Brief History The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf: Changing the Name

The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) was founded in 1876 as the New England Industrial School for Deaf Mutes.  Not uncommon for the time period, the curriculum revolved around trades such as farming, carpentry, chair-caning, and homemaking in a residential setting. Students grew most of the school’s food, reducing costs, and did many repairs themselves. The recommended method of education for deaf children at this time was the oral method along with speech and lip reading.

In 1922, the school’s name was changed to Beverly School for the Deaf to reflect a decreased focus from an industrial/trade school to a more academic setting, as well as the recognition that students could develop oral language skills. The school also became one of the first organizations in the state to register as a non-profit when that designation was created by the government that same year.

In the 1970s, the school expanded its mission from serving deaf, hard of hearing and communication-challenged children to also accepting hearing and deaf children with learning and developmental disabilities.

In 2004, the school began an expansion of its services to students with Autism, Developmental delays and other disabilities under the umbrella of communication challenges. In 2007, after nearly 15 years, the use of Signed Exact English (SEEII) was switched to American Sign Language (ASL) in supporting the visual communication needs of students. In 2008, the organization changed its name to The Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf (CCCBSD) to include students with a wide variety of special needs and communication challenges.

The school continues to grow and expand its services. CCCBSD offers consulting, ASL classes for babies through adults, as well as the Parent-Infant/Toddler program. To learn more about the history of the school, or arrange a tour, contact us at info@cccbsd.org.

Accessibility Services in CCCBSD’s Music Program

 

CCCBSD is one of the few deaf/hard of hearing schools that offers music classes, and the music classroom itself is equipped with numerous unique and advanced accessibility services to give all students a chance to fully enjoy music. One of the challenges that Kelly Surette, CCCBSD’s music teacher, has continuously faced in her work is finding more ways to make music accessible and enjoyable for students who cannot hear. She has come up with solutions through her own creativity, and greatly utilized different available technologies.

When you first walk into the music room, one of the most noticeable things is the wooden dance floor that covers around half of the space. This dance floor is unique because it is set up to produce vibrations in line with the bass of songs, thereby allowing deaf students to feel the music whenever they are standing on it. At the front of the dance floor, a large TV hangs on the wall. Kelly often utilizes it to play ASL videos for the students, particularly YouTube videos of people signing to popular songs. On either side of the TV, there are two tall light boxes that flash with the music. For deeper sounds, the colors fall in the red and orange range. For higher sounds, the colors might be more green and yellow, with the location of the colors on the light reflecting the pitch as well: lower sounds at the bottom and higher sounds at the top.

After discovering that wood is an excellent material for transmitting vibrations, Kelly began making use of it in her classroom. She has placed a long board underneath the lid of the piano for students to touch and feel as she plays. For students who sit in wheelchairs, Kelly has discovered that she can use pieces of wood to branch the distance between a students lap and a speaker. As the speaker vibrates, the student can feel the vibrations from their end of the piece of wood. At one point, Kelly had access to some chairs that vibrate in the same manner that the cochlea in the ear processes sound. She also has a few pillows that do something similar. These tools allow students to feel and hear music in their own unique way.

Through these accessibility technologies, Kelly’s students have been able to truly experience and enjoy music in a way that they might otherwise not be able to. She believes that music is as essential to a child’s education as any other class or subject. In the future, she hopes to utilize more technologies that would allow her students to feel higher frequencies, like her own voice. Some students, she says, will come up to her and place a hand on her throat to experience the feeling of her singing. One day she hopes to be able to do something like that on a bigger scale. No matter what, Kelly is working her hardest to give her students the best music education she possibly can. If there is a way for her to do something more efficiently or more effectively, she will work hard until she can find it.

 

CCCBSD’s Garden

About a year ago, Sam Snow-Cronin started as a paraprofessional at CCCBSD. This summer, after noticing an unused raised garden bed outside the school, he thought that students could benefit from learning to garden. After getting permission to begin the project, Sam was faced with the challenge of creating something that would be accessible for all students, and provide them with the valuable experience of taking care of something and watching it grow.

With the summer session in full swing, gardening has been a perfect activity for students to continue their learning in a non-classroom environment. So far, students have helped with weeding, watering, scheduling, and purchasing seeds and plants. Earlier this year, some students even had the opportunity to visit Kane’s Flower World in Danvers to learn about gardening and purchase plants for the garden.

Though some students have physical challenges, they are by no means exempt from the gardening experience. Recently, Sam Snow-Cronin was able to acquire a specialized watering can that operates with a button. For individuals with fine-motor difficulties, this watering can allows control of how much water is poured, and lets them focus more on aiming. The garden provides a different and highly interactive opportunity to practice their various motor skills. Most of all, students are able to see how their hard work pays off as the plants grow and flourish.

Though only one flower bed is currently available now, Sam hopes to add more in the future. Still, with the small space he has been able to grow cherry tomatoes, basil, lavender, rosemary, lamb’s ear, bush beans, and nasturtiums, an edible flower. These plants in particular are not only edible, but can provide a natural sensory experience for students. Plants like lamb’s ear are soft to the touch, while lavender, rosemary, and basil smell nice. In the future, Sam would like to have a separate section of the garden to be dedicated to sensory plants. He has also been in contact with the cafeteria staff to discuss the future possibility incorporating some of the garden’s produce into student’s meals.

The CCCBSD garden may still be new, but it has been very successful so far. Students are having fun learning new skills and watching their work blossom. Sam is grateful for all of the help and support he has received from teachers and faculty, and hopes to see the project continue to grow and evolve. He is very open to new ideas, and enjoys the collaborative aspects of the garden.

Teacher Feature – Caitlyn Clair

Adaptive Physical Education (APE) teacher, Caitlyn Clair has been teaching APE at CCCBSD for a year but has already made a lifelong impact. Before coming to Beverly, Caitlyn graduated from Grand Valley State University on the western side of Michigan. She studied exercise science, health fitness, and instruction. After graduating, Caitlyn worked for the Special Olympics and discovered how her love of occupational therapy could go hand in hand with special needs. Growing up with a school psychologist mother, Caitlyn was always exposed to ways to help children. Her passion for fitness and helping people feel good about themselves, coupled with her desire to make an impact on kids in the school system, particularly those with cognitive or developmental disabilities, led her to her current path.

Through her own love of sports, Caitlyn wants to encourage students to have the confidence they need to participate in physical activities and games. It is most important that the kids are moving, having fun, and becoming more confident in their movements. Caitlyn finds it most rewarding when she sees students advance in their social connections. One of the biggest parts of sports is the teamwork and Caitlyn always likes to watch students work and have fun together, “I more than anything want for our kids to engage in sport, not just to engage in the physical fitness aspect of it, but to feel fulfilled socially as well.”

So far, Caitlyn’s favorite unit has been the creation of a video where students danced and signed along to the song “Cupid’s Shuffle.”  The video was then uploaded to YouTube. This video was an opportunity for students to create something, memorize some simple dance moves, and have fun while staying active. When Caitlyn was in school, like at many other schools, she participated in a dance unit where she learned the square dance. Though the square dance could certainly be done at CCCBSD, she wanted to choose a dance that was more versatile and upbeat. On top of all of the benefits of this video for the students, it was also a fun greeting to parents for Valentine’s Day.

Another unit that Caitlyn really enjoyed was the March Madness basketball tournament. The students had the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination, work as a team, and learn the rules of basketball. The games drew a big crowd of students, faculty, staff, and parents. The players were able to experience the feeling of being cheered on by a crowd, and being proud of their hard work. Caitlyn’s goal was to make the students feel like they are capable of anything and to establish confidence, and she thinks that was definitely accomplished.