Teaching deaf children is a challenging profession that allows you to impact each life and society as you enable students to reach their potentials. Teachers of the deaf can select the age group or grade level with which they want to work as well as choosing the environment in which to work. Although there are schools for the deaf, many children are mainstreamed into regular classroom environments. If you choose to work as a resource teacher for the deaf in a certain school, you will serve only the population of that school. If you work as a traveling deaf educator, you will serve differing age and socio-economic groups. Because there are so many advances in technology and communication, teachers of the deaf may be able to use technology with their competencies to see dramatic results in the children they serve. You will also work with families of deaf students to help them understand techniques of communication and offer support not only to the students, but to their families.
Teachers of the deaf are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics with other special education teachers. If you want to work as a teaching assistant or paraprofessional, you can expect to make $25,410. If you want to be a classroom teacher, you can expect a median salary of $57,910.
The average entry-level salary for a teacher for the deaf is $37,720. The salary for special needs teachers in California and in states with large metropolitan areas is significantly higher than that of rural states.
A teacher of deaf children must teach communication skills to students. They must use technology to help students learn and communicate. Teachers of the deaf should understand and use educational tools to assess the level of disability and to monitor progress. If the teacher works in a mainstreamed classroom, he or she must understand how to help deaf students relate to hearing children. Teachers must adapt educational content and material to meet the needs of deaf students.
Teachers of deaf children must understand hearing aids, cochlear implants and other equipment. They should be able to read and interpret audiograms. They also must be able to use the information to develop IEP programs for the students. The educator must also have an ability to collaborate with other staff, doctors and families of his or her students. Teachers for the deaf must be able to modify regular classroom materials to present them to deaf students. They must have a command of American Sign Language and work to develop clear lip patterns so that students can “read their lips.” It is also helpful to understand certain behavior patterns that may develop with frustration and anger in the students.
Degrees and Education Requirements
Although some schools require master’s degrees to teach special education, many allow you to begin teaching with a bachelor’s degree. You must be able to pass the teacher certification exam in your state. Paraprofessionals need only a high school education and some experience. Teachers should have degrees in special education with a specialization in teaching deaf students. It is advisable to earn a degree from a program that is certified by the Council on Education of the Deaf. Programs in schools might have titles such as “Intervention Specialist for Education of the Deaf.” Because most deaf students are born into hearing families, the deficiency is often not discovered until the child is two or three years of age. That means there are language development delays that make it harder for these children to learn to read and write English. Concentrations in teaching bilingual students may be an asset as well. You should also have a certification in ASL. A master’s degree or a doctoral-level degree will allow you to work in higher education, in administration and in research that develops teaching modules and programs for use with deaf students.
Rewards and Challenges of the Position
As a teacher of the deaf you will impact the lives of children daily. You will help them reach their potentials as citizens and as wage-earners. You will also have the opportunity of working with and supporting the families of deaf children. As an educational professional, you will have access to financial and social resources that can significantly improve the quality of the student’s life and his family environment. Your job will involve a lot of paperwork. That is certainly a challenge, yet it may allow you to work shorter days as schools accommodate your schedule. You will spend more time than your counterparts teaching hearing children, because you will have to adapt materials and structure lesson plans to meet the needs of your students. You will also probably deal with more student behavioral issues. If you teach at a post-secondary school, you might work odd hours as students seek you to help them communicate in other areas and assist them in succeeding in other class settings.
After your educational requisites are met, you will need to become certified to teach in your state. You will want to gain more hands-on experience in working with deaf people. You will also need to become informed on “deaf issues” such as the debate over whether it is best to help people hear better or to accept deafness as a normal pattern that needs no accommodation. This is called deaf culture and families might adhere to either train of thought. You should become fluent and certified in ASL. It may be an asset to you to join a professional organization as well so that you can stay abreast of current issues and have access to school openings.
Special education teaching is predicted to grow by 17 percent through 2020, which is an average rate. Teaching deaf students requires more work and dedication than other teachers may need. That means you will be able to find a job. Many states only have one school for the deaf so, if you want to teach in that arena, you may need to relocate. Public schools also need special education teachers who specialize in teaching the deaf. You may find the most need in urban areas, in schools with lower-income or marginalized populations and that might not be the most attractive option to you, but those schools offer rewarding careers and may also have relocation packages, signing bonuses and other incentives.
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Teaching deaf students is rewarding in many ways. Your passion for education and for enriching the lives of your children will certainly result in building strong relationships with your students. As technology emerges to help deaf people communicate, your role as an educator will enlarge as well.