By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Sarah Tucker with Mira Frost.
Preschoolers play in their classroom’s make-believe “garden shop,” busily putting plastic plants into pots, pouring imaginary water and gathering silk flowers into pretty bouquets.
“What color are the flowers?” asks their teacher, Sarah Tucker. “Can you say pink? Blue? Are you making a beanstalk you can climb up, like Jack?”
Tucker is talking to them in both American Sign Language and spoken English. The youngsters reply back with sign and speak aloud in English.
Like the flowers in the nursery, students are blooming under the tutelage of Tucker, who is their teacher in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Preschool Special Day Class at Chris Jespersen School in San Luis Obispo.
Years ago, the San Luis Obispo County Education Association member was also a deaf child in a similar program in the district. One of the best things Tucker loves about her job is being able to work with her former childhood mentor, Diane Hunt-Roberts, a speech language pathologist and also a member of SLOCEA. She taught Tucker about speech fluency, articulation and sentence structure, as well as not being afraid to ask for help when learning a new word and how to pronounce it.
“To this day, I am grateful for all her hard work she invested in me,” says Tucker. “Without Diane’s dedication and perseverance, I would not have clear articulation or understanding of how to pronounce words in order to carry on a conversation with my hearing peers and co-workers. Now Diane and I work together as a team to meet our students’ needs.”
When Tucker was younger, she had no exposure to a deaf adult role model. She assumed that when she turned 5, she would hear like everyone else.
“Because of my own experiences, it is important to be a role model to my deaf students and show them that when they grow up, they will still have a hearing loss, but they can be successful any way they choose,” she relates.
Tucker incorporates language and communication through American Sign Language and auditory-oral reinforcement. Her teaching style involves role-playing, so students can put together pictures, vocabulary, ideas and concepts, connecting them with the real world.
As a child, Tucker’s biggest challenge was educating her peers — and some teachers — that she just was like any other student, with the exception of a hearing loss. She believes some of her students will also be faced with this.
“I can help students overcome challenges by discussing my personal experiences growing up, being a role model for them, and encouraging them to be proud of their hearing loss,” she says. “I love seeing them gain confidence in themselves and becoming self-reliant, so they will be able to advocate for themselves when they are older.”
“I always wanted to be a teacher for deaf and hard of hearing children because of my positive educational experience in San Luis Obispo,” adds Tucker. “After six years of teaching in Colorado, it has been a tremendous honor to make a full circle and come back home to teach.”
View video of Sarah Tucker.
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