Schoeller, Sarah



My name is John Dolezal.  I am deaf.


I have an older sister, Laura, who is also deaf. My parents are both hearing. After they were married they lived in Roseland, MN. Both worked in Redwood Falls, so once my sister, Laura, was born my grandmother took care of Laura during the day. My grandmother had this extremely loud vacuum which Laura liked to play with.  While other cousins would scream and cry once it was started, she loved it. My grandmother told my parents that they needed to get her hearing tested. First they went to a regular doctor, who sent them to an audiologist in St. Louis Park, and she was then tested at the University of Minnesota. The doctor told my parents that unfortunately, she is deaf.  


After moving to Franklin, Minnesota, my parents enlisted the help of the Bird Island Day Activity Center who had a teacher for the Hearing Impaired. Laura went there during the day and the teacher would come to our home and teach sign language a couple times a month. Along with that, my mom took sign language classes in Marshall at the college. They could finally communicate with Laura.  


Two years later, I was born. The doctors told my parents that they couldn’t test me at the University of Minnesota until I was one year old. They also told them it would be one in a million chances that I, too, would be deaf. Well, once I did get tested, I tested deaf as well.  My parents told me the charts between my sister and I was almost the same, uncanny. At that time, my parents were really sure I could hear. They would do small tests around the house and I would turn my head, smile etc., but it was wishful thinking. After it finally sank in my parents were excited and thought about how nice it will be to be able to communicate with both of us through sign language and not have one “spoiled” child, but both equally spoiled, as they tell me.  I also then attended the Bird Island Day Activity Center during the day.


When Laura was six years old, my mom got a job in Willmar so Laura could go to the Willmar Public Schools starting Kindergarten with a full time interpreter. I stayed with my dad in Franklin. On the weekends, my mom and Laura would travel home to be with us. This went on until I could start school in Willmar. After Mom, Laura and I commuted back and forth on the weekends, my dad moved to Willmar with us and he commuted every day to Redwood for his job. That was a lot easier on our family and we could all be together.


In the Willmar Public Schools Laura was the only one (over 300 kids) in her whole class that was deaf. I had one other boy, who was hard of hearing, in my 300 plus class. My parents heard about an opportunity for my sister and me to go to summer “camp” in Faribault at the School for the Deaf. Different ages attended certain weeks. My parents applied and we got to go. This became a yearly event which we loved to do. I remember the first time my parents left us. My mom cried and cried. We missed them, but we loved being with other deaf kids.


When Laura was in 3rd grade, my parents noticed more of a communication gap between her and her friends. It was at that time that my parents decided a move needed to be made for both my sister and me. So my parents left both of us, the next summer, at my grandparents’ house one week while they went to Faribault in search of jobs. My dad found one at a company in New Prague and at the end of August in 1987 we moved. Laura and I started full time at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf (MSAD) in September. There, we got the best of both worlds. We were with our deaf peers at MSAD but also had the opportunity to mainstream into the public schools. I mainstreamed some classes at the middle school and also the high school. I also participated in sports (football, track) at the deaf school and (wrestling) Faribault high school. I was the only deaf wrestler on the Faribault high school varsity team from 1994 to 1998. I had both a lot hearing and deaf friends. My dad only miss one of my wrestling matches and my mom never missed any of my matches in whole my life. I even went to Copenhagen, Denmark for Deaf Olympic wrestling. My parents would not have missed it.


I graduated in 1998. Since I was unsure about a major, I went to St Paul Technical College for a year. I then figured out what I wanted to do and transferred to Ridgewater College in Willmar where I could also play football and wrestle. After getting my CNC Machinists degree, I worked at Parker Hydraulics in Chanhassen, Minnesota for eight years. In 2008, my boss promoted me to Engineering CAD Design. It was a good opportunity for me to work this position. I worked full time and went to school part time at Hennepin Tech College since that is where my company offered to match their program for Engineering CAD Design. One year, my company decided to move to a different state, so I decided to continue my education full time to get an Engineering CAD Design A.A.S. degree. In May 2011, I graduated with an Engineering CAD Design A.A.S. degree and I then transferred to University of Minnesota for a Manufacturing Management BA degree. I will finish my BA degree in 2013!

Feel free to ask John any questions you may have about deaf culture, teaching a deaf or hard of hearing student... anything!


Sarah's Research:

Introduction to Deaf and Hard of Hearing


Hard of hearing students show, on average, about a 2 year gap in vocabulary development; Deaf students show, on average, about a 4 year gap in vocabulary development (Itinerant Connection, n.d.).  Teachers can really help close this gap with their Deaf and hard of hearing students by implementing certain strategies within their classrooms.




Deaf” is a reference to members of the Deaf community and Deaf culture.  Members are proud to be Deaf and consider Deafness an important part of their identity.  (Deaf Linx, n.d.).


deaf” is a term that refers to many groups of people.  Being “deaf” means that these people probably don’t identify with the Deaf community.  They may or may not use ASL and they may associate mostly with hearing people (Deaf Linx, n.d.).


Hard of hearing” is “a term for people with mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss,” (Deaf Linx, n.d.).  They may use speech as well as be involved in the Deaf community.  They may transition between Deaf and hearing cultures (Deaf Linx, n.d.).


Hearing impaired” – “This term is considered highly offensive,” (Deaf Linx, n.d.).  This term does not allow for cultural identity and it collects all groups of people with any amount of hearing loss (Deaf Linx, n.d.).


Hearing” means no hearing loss (Deaf Linx, n.d.).


Deaf students are “concerned with their own value and have a continuous need to understand themselves and how others perceive them,” (Itinerant Connection, n.d.).  Because of this, it’s important that teachers promote inclusion in the classroom and group activities.


Strategies for teaching Deaf students


In the Classroom


In a lab


I found a study on teaching strategies with deaf students in an inclusive classroom.  This study first looked at the question, "Do general education teachers adjust their speech directed towards deaf and hard of hearing students, using less complex language than with hearing students?"  The study measured how often a teacher spoke to deaf students and hearing students, how many questions were asked of each, how many open ended questions were asked of each, among other things.  The study results showed that yes, general education teachers adjust their speech when directed towards deaf and hard of hearing students.  "Adjust" here means that the teachers speak less often, in shorter sentences, with less questions overall and less open ended questions towards deaf and hard of hearing students.  The study was looking at the facts, and these are the facts of the study.

The next portion of the paper took a look at what makes deaf students comfortable in the classroom.  I hesitate to put these under strategies, even though they are strategies.  I hesitate because these are things that cannot be done without some thinking and effort on the teacher's part.  According to Stephanie Cawthon:

Deaf students are more comfortable in inclusive classrooms when...

The teacher knows at least some sign language

The teacher makes an effort to learn about Deaf culture

The teacher promotes student advocacy - Deaf students can make independent decisions about their assisted listening devices (if any) and communication/interpreters (i.e. Don't baby them! They are middle or high school students, they know what they need)

The teacher and the interpreter work together to provide a clear environment for the student. This includes the teacher learning about interpreters and their role.  This also includes things like not stepping in front of the interpreter!



Cawthon, S.  (2001).  Teaching Strategies in Inclusive Classrooms With Deaf Students [Electronic version].  RFID Journal.

Deaf Linx.  (n.d.).  Education.  Retrieved March 28. 2012, from:

Itinerant Connection.  (n.d.).  Not Just For Teachers.  Retrieved March 28, 2012, from:

Keller, E.  (2005).  Strategies For Teaching Students With Hearing Impairments.  Retrieved March 28, 20120, from:


I was doing a little research and found this image:

According to Start ASL (2012), there are four levels of the "Deaf experience".  Deaf people in isolation, Deaf community, Deaf culture, and Deaf ethnicity.


Deaf people in isolation

According to Start ASL, these are the people are "Deaf, but not Deaf".  They are trying to fit into hearing society, they are "products of oral schools."


Deaf community

What's the difference of Deaf community and Deaf culture?  "There are many Deaf communities... but only one Deaf culture," (Start ASL, 2012).


Deaf language is more strict in Deaf culture than in Deaf community.  For example, in Deaf community, miming and signed English may be used when conversing with hearing people to help them understand.  Deaf culture does not do this.


Members of Deaf community may be hearing (family members, friends, interpreters, etc). 


Deaf culture

Deaf culture has stricter membership 'rules'.  Those in Deaf culture identify themselves as Deaf before any other culture.  Most members have some sort of hearing loss, however some CODAs (children of deaf adults) may be members as they grew up in this culture and are native to it.  Those in Deaf culture use ASL.


Deaf ethnicity

This is the most restrictive group.  Members are most likely Deaf children who grew up with Deaf parents.  "This situation is surprisingly rare, but highly valued," (Start ASL, 2012).



Cawthon, S.  (2001).  Teaching Strategies in Inclusive Classrooms With Deaf Students [Electronic version].  RFID Journal.

Deaf Linx.  (n.d.).  Education.  Retrieved March 28. 2012, from:

Itinerant Connection.  (n.d.).  Not Just For Teachers.  Retrieved March 28, 2012, from:

Keller, E.  (2005).  Strategies For Teaching Students With Hearing Impairments.  Retrieved March 28, 20120, from:

Start ASL.  (2012). ASL Immersion, Deaf Culture Membership.  Retrieved March 28, 2012, from: