Special Education Career Profile: Teacher of the Deaf

Teaching in the field of special education can give you a variety of career options. You can choose age/grade level, type of disability, or even the type of program you teach in. Being a teacher of the deaf can be a very rewarding, yet challenging, career choice.

What Does A Teacher of the Deaf Do?

The role of the teacher of the deaf can vary depending on the setting. According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED), the teacher’s role is to:

  • Establish a classroom or other learning environment to meet the physical, cognitive, cultural, linguistic, and communicative needs of the child;
  • Plan and utilize strategies, appropriate materials, and resources for implementing educational experiences that support the development of communicative competence;
  • Provide consistent comprehensible language(s) appropriate to the needs of the child regardless of the modality or form;
  • Apply first and second language teaching strategies to teaching English (e.g., through ASL appropriate to the needs of the child and consistent with the program philosophy);
  • Facilitate and support communication among deaf and hard of hearing children and adults, hearing children and adults, including family/caregivers;
  • Monitor and evaluate the child’s communicative competence on a regular basis in academic and nonacademic contexts including the child’s use of signs, cues, speech, and/or assistive technologies;
  • Provide instruction and/or support for effective use of communication supports such as interpreting, transliteration, note-taking, real-time captioning, telecommunications, and computing.

Teacher of the Deaf Responsibilities, Knowledge and Skills

As a teacher of the deaf, you should have a working knowledge of hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM equipment, as well as understand and be able to interpret audiograms. You may have to share this information with school staff members or families. You may also have to and supervise paraprofessionals and sign language interpreters.

As with any special education teacher, you will have to develop and maintain compliant IEP‘s as well as assess students in the areas of academics, language, and communication.

Where Teachers of the Deaf Work

Young elementary school student signing the letter I for the class.There are a few educational options to where a teacher of the deaf can teach. All fifty states have schools for the deaf, as well as District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Students with hearing loss may also attend public schools. In areas where there is a high population of deaf students, there may be center schools for the deaf. Students are bussed in from several areas to one specific school.

A teacher of the deaf may either provide instruction and support in a separate class or as a resource teacher in a general education or special education classroom.

Deaf students may also attend their neighborhood school. If this is the case, the student may be the only deaf student at the school. Here, an itinerant teacher may be utilized. Itinerant teachers generally cover several schools in an area and provide one on one support to the student as well as collaborate with the classroom teacher.

Classroom or resource teachers serve students in a specific age range, where itinerant teachers tend to cover students pre-k through 12th grade.

Salary, Education and Certification

Certification for a teacher of the deaf varies from state to state. There are several colleges that offer bachelor and master degrees in education of the deaf. While you don’t have to have a degree in deaf education, you must be able to pass the state certification test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $53,220.

If you are looking for a career where you can support students’ communication needs, as well as their academic, social, and independent functioning needs, work with parents and professionals on understanding hearing loss, and have a variety of classroom settings to work in, then you should consider becoming a teacher of the deaf.

Parent Communication

Many times, teachers want parents to be involved and want to communicate with them.  But then get stuck.  What do needs to be said?  When do is there time to reach out to parents?

Understanding and Acting on The Importance of Parent Communication

We always hear how important parent communication is, and it is true.  Most parents want to be involved in their child’s education.  They want to know what is happening in the classroom, how their child is progressing in the curriculum and with the standards, how their child is getting along with others in the class, and what they can do at home to help them. 

Setting The Tone

Contacting parents before school starts or just as school is starting sets the tone for positive communication and establishes the importance of communication.  Relationships are built through communication.  

When the initial communication between teachers and parents is positive, parents tend to be supportive and have a positive outlook.  Later during the year, if there is a problem with a student’s behavior or an academic concern, parents who had an initial positive experience are more likely to continue to be supportive. 

It may seem daunting if you have 25 families to reach out to, but this initial contact may be brief.  It may be a phone call, an email, or even a postcard in the mail to introduce yourself to the new families. Students also benefit from this early communication as it sends a message the teacher is excited to have them in their class.

Benefits to Parents

There are benefits to parents who have frequent feedback and communication from the classroom teacher.  Parents gain a better understanding of the school curriculum and communicate better with their children.  When there is a partnership between parents and the school, parents feel they are valuable to their children’s education.  In turn, this can set higher expectations for their child.

Benefits to Teachers

Teachers gain more insight about their students when communicating with families.  Parents know their child best and can share vital information.  This allows the teacher to meet the student’s needs academically, socially, and emotionally in the classroom.

Benefits to the Students

Studies show there are many benefits to students when there is communication between parents and teachers.  Some of the benefits include increased motivation for learning, regular attendance, improved behavior, and an overall positive attitude towards school and learning.

So what now?

  • Teachers have to find ways to make communication with parents effective. Find out what types of communication families prefer.  Do they prefer paper, phone calls, or electronic communication? 
  • Inform parents of how you want them to communicate: phone, email, or notes. Let them know times of availability for calls or to return emails
  • Make sure to communicate everything, not just the “bad”. A quick phone call to parents when their child did something fantastic, had a gain in learning, or met an IEP goal is a phone call that will be well received by parents.

Teachers can become so overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done day in and day out. Scheduling communication may be helpful.  Set your calendar with which families are due to hear from you.  Keep in mind how each family prefers to communicate. Remembering the benefits to all involved should help keep communication as a priority.