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Monday, April 23, 2012

outstanding faculty member

Student Accessibility Services

Outstanding Faculty Nomination

Student's Name: Angela Orlando

Faculty Name: Dr. Katherine Orr

Classes Taught:
Introduction to Creative Writing Fall, 2010
Poetry Writing I Spring, 2011
Poetry Writing II Spring 2012

I the past, I was taking ASL classes here at Kent State.
However, my heart has always been in writing. Finally, I worked
up the courage to take Introduction to Creative Writing. I wrote
to the department chair and told him about my situation and
needed accommodations. My professor would have to be flexible,
easy-going, creative and determined. He told me to sign up for a
class with Dr. Katherine Orr. That's how this amazing experience
began.

I sent an email to Dr. Orr to introduce myself and explain about
my disabilities. I got the feeling she was truly excited to have
a deaf-blind student in her class. Her mind went right to work
on what would be needed. She even contacted SAS and made an
appointment with Sue Smith before the semester began. The
purpose of the meeting was to discuss what could be done to help
me succeed. No other professor ever thought to do that.

I always felt so alive in my writing classes with Dr. Orr. She
made me part of the class. She arranged the seats so I wasn't
sitting in a corner in the back of the room. I was physically
and emotionally included.

Dr. Orr called on me often. She had me read my work in class,
just like everyone else. Sometimes I wrote poems or stories
about my disabilities. Dr. Orr used that as an opening to
discuss the challenges I face and ways I triumph. But she wasn't
talking so much about my disabilities. She was referring to my
life and showing the other students that I'm not so different.
To Dr. Orr, I'm not a deaf-blind student or a student with
disabilities. I'm just a student with the desire to learn.

We ran into a problem right away. I discovered that I can't
understand poetry in ASL. Dr. Orr was on top of it. She would
not let this be a setback. She had all students send their
work ahead of time to Sue, so it could be converted into braille.
Sue would make a braille book and send electronic copies via
email so I had every students' writing in a format that I could
appreciate. When the students recited their work in class, I
read my braille book.

Through this class, I also discovered I liked to attend poetry
readings. Again, we needed a system so I could read the poetry
instead of using an interpreter. We figured out how to use my
assistive technology to solve the problem. Someone would type
on a keyboard connected to my Deaf-Blind Communicator, and I
could read it in braille. During the very first reading, it was
Dr. Orr who did the typing. I couldn't believe that a professor
would take the time to type for me. To Dr. Orr, it was no big
deal. She just wanted me to be able to enjoy the reading. And I
did.

During these readings, she always came over to talk to me.
Sometimes she just said hello. Other times she asked me what I
thought of the reading. She always made sure I got the
opportunity to meet the poets. This is how I met one of my most
supportive writing mentors.

Unfortunately, things were not going well with my health. I was
experiencing horrible pain in my arms, shoulders and neck. I
could no longer handle the signing, reading and typing. It was
with a heavy heart that I told Dr. Orr I would have to withdraw
from the class. Her response was, "No way." If I couldn't come
to class, that was fine. She was determined to keep me writing.
I finished the rest of the semester via email and earned an A in
the class. I felt such pride in myself that I was able to
complete It was all because of Dr. Orr.

My health was not improving. I had no intention of taking
another class. But Dr. Orr wrote and encouraged me to keep on
going. I took Poetry Writing I during the next semester. It was
all through email. I never actually stepped foot in the
classroom. But she made sure I was still a part of the class.
She read my work to the students and had them send me comments
and suggestions through email. I managed to write the eight
required poems. That was a huge accomplishment considering the
pain I was in.

I did not sign up for a class in Fall 2011. Ironically, that's
when I started to feel better. Dr. Orr gave me information about
what her classes were studying and the textbooks they used. I
did my own reading and never stopped writing new poetry. She
also sent me the Wick Poetry Center schedule for readings. I
attended a few that semester. Even though I wasn't a student,
Dr. Orr still took the time to chat with me.

I am a new writer with little confidence in my skills. Dr. Orr
seems to see budding talent in my work. She's so encouraging.
She makes me feel like I'm doing something special. Maybe I am a
good writer. Perhaps I can make a career out of this. If she
really believes in me, it must be true.

I was shocked when she asked me to do a reading with two other
"Outstanding Poetry Students" at the Wick Poetry Center. This
was my first poetry reading. There was an official flier with my
name and picture. There were people there who came just to hear
me read my work. They introduced me like I was a "real" writer.
I was terrified and exited at the same time. It was one of the
most thrilling moments in my life. Once again, I owe it all to
Dr. Orr.

For this Spring semester, I signed up for Poetry Writing II.
It's obvious how much I love Dr. Orr, considering this is my
third class in a row with her. In this class, she upped the
level of inclusion. If students don't send their work to Sue for
the braille book, they lose points. She encouraged them to talk
to me through my interpreters. Again, my work often led to
discussions about ASL, braille, mobility and other aspects
related to my life. Since she expressed so much interest in the
topic, I gave all students a card with the braille alphabet and a
paper showing the sign language alphabet. Dr. Orr had each
student learn to sign their name and introduce themselves by
spelling directly into my hand. Some students went further and
tried signing phrases so we could have a conversation. I was
totally astonished by this.

One day I was sitting on a bench before class when someone
touched my arm and gently took my hands. Slowly, she signed,
"Katherine." That's Dr. Orr. She prefers to be called
Katherine. Then she sat with me for five or ten minutes just
chatting. She worked so hard to remember how to form each
letter. Her willingness to do that touched my heart.

I love having Dr. Orr as my teacher. It saddens me that this is
the last class I can take with her. But I have a strong feeling
that she is not done with me. No matter what, she will always be
a writing mentor a friend. For all these reasons combined, I
nominate Dr. Katherine Orr as an outstanding faculty member.



Note: Dr. Orr was chosen as the nominee who best exemplified the
following criteria; taking an interest in students' unique
learning style, exhibiting creativity in their teaching methods
relative to student need and normalizing the classroom experience
for students with disabilities.
Dr. Orr was honored last and received a special trophy. The
trophy is made of natural wood stained in different shades of
brown with the following inscription: Making the Difference.
Awarded to Katherine Orr for your commitment to students with
disabilities. April 2012. Professor Orr also receive a framed
certificate.

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