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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Outstanding Faculty

Last Fall, I wrote many blogs about my ASL iii class. It was a
fantastic class because I had an amazing instructor. A good
teacher makes all the difference in the world.

Yesterday, I had the chance to publicly honor that teacher for
her hard work and dedication. My university held a faculty
recognition reception for teachers who have gone above and
beyond to help students with disabilities succeed in class. The
ceremony was hosted by Student Accessibility Services (SAS.)

Any student registered with SAS could nominate their favorite
teachers to receive this recognition. A selection committee
chose the top three instructors to be honored as the "best of the
best." I am proud to say that my ASL iii teacher was among these
three top winners.

I attended the reception to read my nomination. I would now like
to share that nomination with my blog readers. I want everyone
to know that I am so lucky and thankful to have had such an
awesome teacher.

Outstanding faculty Nomination

Name: Laurie Pesarchik

Department: ASL

Course taught: ASL iii

Semester: Fall 2009

As a student who is both deaf and blind, I need some serious
accommodations to succeed in class. Let's face it - most
instructors have never even met a deaf-blind individual, much
less had to teach them. It's a new and unique challenge.

To make matters even more complicated, I'm a blind person
learning a visual language. That is not an easy task. I need an
understanding professor who is willing to be creative so I can
"see" without vision. It takes thought and work to make that

Every semester, I need a big accommodations meeting with my
instructor, interpreters and SAS staff. This meeting helps the
professor understand my needs and what she/he will be expected to
do. During the Fall 2009 semester, for ASL iii, I never had this
meeting. I didn't need to. Laurie Pesarchik was on the ball
from the very start.

Laurie made sure I always knew what was going on in class. She
sent me handouts and activity sheets before class time. That way
I h a chance to review them and would be ready for each class. I
knew exactly what to expect. I was prepared and ready to learn
and participate. I could not have done that without Laurie's

Some teachers think it's enough to just have a student with
disabilities sit in the back of the classroom. The student is
there but never really part of the class. I've had that happen
sometimes. The only people who talk to me are my interpreters.
When it's time for group activities or working in pairs, I have
to work with an interpreter or the instructor because none of the
students will be my partner.

Laurie would not have that in her classroom. I was part of the
class and she made sure I was always an active participant.
She called on me to answer questions. She made me come up in
front of the class to sign demonstrations. She had all the
students work with me at different times. I always had a partner
in her class. I was always truly part of the class.

Another problem is that many instructors would rather excuse a
student with disabilities from an activity, instead of working
out accommodations. I hate that! I am a student just like
everyone else in the class. I can do the same work. I don't
want to be excused from anything.

Never once did Laurie let me out of an assignment. I don't think
that option ever crossed her mind. She assigned work and she
expected everyone to do it - including me.

Since we were working on signing room and building descriptions
and giving directions, this wasn't always so simple. How can I
describe something I can't see? Laurie made sure I could see
everything with my hands.

For example, she used glue to make room layouts. When the glue
dried, it created a tactile picture that I could feel.

Other times she used toys and objects to create a scene of some
sort. I needed to feel everything and then sign a story. The
other students signed stories from pictures. Laurie brought the
pictures to life so I could feel them.

Once we did an activity describing how to arrange furniture in a
room. As usual, the other students used pictures for this
activity. For me, Laurie brought in a doll house -- a very
large doll house with all types of accessories and furniture. It
was so amazing!

Laurie wanted to make sure I understood all the concepts that she
was teaching in class so she often worked with me one-on-one in
her office. We'd spend an hour together before class. She
helped me with signing directions. She had me feel and touch
hundreds of objects so I could describe them in ASL. She went
over story telling and helped me improve on my work. She even
let me feel her face and body movements with my hands so I could
learn the non-verbal components of ASL.

We also did quizzes and tests in her office. This allowed us to
go slow and at my own pace. I could take extra time to feel the
objects or think about the answer. I would typed answers on
my braille machine and sent her my answer sheet later through
email. She made sure I always knew my grade and gave me lots of

Laurie Pesarchik is a tough teacher, but I mean that in a good
way. She really wants to help her students learn ASL.
Deaf-blind or not, I was one of her students. She made sure I
succeeded. She went above and beyond what I would expect from a
college professor. For that reason, I nominate Laurie Pesarchik
to be recognized by SAS as an outstanding faculty member.

Thank you

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