I only hope I can find the right words because “thank you” just doesn’t seem to say enough. Mrs. Schaefer is a 3rd grade teacher who came to St Olaf School last fall. As might happen with any new faculty, our parental trepidation about her skills soon turned to confidence.. She set lofty goals for her class, and began nurturing her students toward those goals. She held the children accountable by working with parents. When extra clarification was indicated on a homework assignment, she often took the time to send home a note so that we parents could help support her expectations. Through communication she also enforced our shared values so that good behavior was rewarded and bad behavior was corrected. It underscored that what was taught at home was reinforced in the classroom and vice versa.
Of particular note, my son is about 60% deaf and though Mrs. Schaefer had limited experience with hearing deficient children, she remained a model for her vocation. She set about working with my son’s speech therapist at another school to ensure that the vocabulary he learned in therapy was reinforced in the classroom. Often this entailed faxing lesson plans between the two schools. Ever interested in understanding his deficit, and how to help him learn, Mrs. Schaefer attended meetings with speech therapists, audiologists, and school administrators learning how to help him understand. Certain days she finished classes early so she could be at my son’s Individual Education Plan meeting, which convened at another school a few miles distant.
In the classroom, she ensured my son was not ostracized from classroom activities She placed the microphone to his receiver/amplifier where he could hear and be involved with other ambient conversations. She always ensured he remained focused on the lessons and accountable for his assignments.
During a teacher’s seminar, she learned first hand about what a child with a hearing deficit faces because she herself sat through a demonstration of hearing loss at the mild moderate and severe stages. Armed with this new understanding, she borrowed the tape that was used during the demonstration and played it for my son’s classmates. With it went her explanation of why my son sometimes behaves indifferently. She let the children take a spelling test as part of the demonstration so the children had real exposure to how little my son actually hears. That day became an epiphany for my son, his classmates and most importantly, for Mrs. Schaefer because she could now understand new ways to motivate him and keep him engaged. My son is thriving in the environment that Mrs. Schaefer has established for my son. Thanks to her I know he will be fully ready and able to face the challenges ahead and I’m confident he’ll contribute in “main stream America”
Thank You Mrs. Schaefer
A grateful parent
Wayne L. Welninski