30 Years as a Teacher of a Deaf: Karen’s Story

Karen Gazeley has spent almost 30 years working as a Teacher of Karen Gazeley - Deaf Educationthe Deaf after completing her training at Manchester in 1988. Here, she tells us about her career and the changes she has seen in the sector during this time…

I graduated from Manchester in 1988. I took a four-year joint degree in Audiology & Education of the Deaf, and another subject (in my case English Literature), and incorporated a PGCE and the Teacher of the Deaf qualification.

Our training, in particular the theory and practical application of audiological skills and speech production, gave us a great knowledge base to take forward as we began working in the field of deaf education.

I can still remember the sound of all those test boxes whirring and the pressure of producing an example of a ‘voiceless bilabial ‘plosive’ in an oral exam. Students at Manchester now have the advantage of access to state-of-the-art audiological equipment and technology!

My first job

My early career was focused on secondary aged children. I applied for my first job at Ovingdean Hall School in Brighton. Despite getting lost on the morning of the interview, I was offered the job and moved to Brighton in the summer of 1988. At the time, Ovingdean Hall had around 170 severely and profoundly deaf students and 40 staff.

Karen Gazeley - Deaf Education

I started teaching with two other newly qualified teachers of the deaf and we supported one another as we learnt our trade under the guidance of the inspiring head teacher, David Braybrook and his team. Fresh out of university, I was 23 at the time, not much older than the Year 11 pupils, and I remember David holding up this photo of me with my first class in the staff room and asking if it was a member of staff or one of the students!

Ovingdean Hall School used a Natural Oral approach to communication; audiology services on site facilitated effective use of hearing aids and group aids which were used in the classroom to enhance auditory access both to the teacher and between pupils during lessons.

I taught English and Science GCSE and later took my first management role as Head of Science. Pupils benefited from access to specialist subject teachers who were qualified teachers of the deaf, small class sizes (there was a maximum of eight children per class), daily literacy groups and a deaf peer group. Some of the children had additional needs, including ASD and Sensory Integration issues, which were not fully recognised or understood at the time.

I was at OHS for eight years and learnt so much about the challenges deaf children face and strategies to support their social and emotional development and foster language learning across the curriculum.

Into the mainstream

Most applicants for the postgraduate qualification have experience teaching typically hearing children in a mainstream setting before specialising in working with deaf children, which I think is an advantage.

I left Ovingdean in 1996 to work in the Lavinia Norfolk Centre at Angmering secondary school to gain mainstream experience. Teaching a class of 30 was a new challenge for me, but gave me a wider perspective on deaf education and an understanding of how to facilitate access to the curriculum for children with hearing loss.

Returning to teaching the deaf

After two years, I got a job locally with Brighton & Hove Sensory Needs Service as an Advisory Teacher of the Deaf. The transition from classroom teaching to a peripatetic role took a little getting used to. Providing advice to mainstream colleagues and supporting individual children from 5-16 years old requires diplomacy, sensitivity and flexibility.

I began to work with preschool children and their families and did some additional training in working with 0-2 year olds, which was invaluable. I loved supporting parents of newly diagnosed babies, and over the years learned active listening techniques to foster effective partnership working with families.

I managed the service for HI children from around 2002 to 2015; we supported around 275 children with hearing loss in our primary Hearing Support Facility and in local schools and preschool settings. My role included strategic planning, managing a team, training and budgeting.

Over the years, there were significant developments in the diagnosis and habilitation of deaf children; in particular the introduction of newborn hearing screening and technological advancements in cochlear implantation.

We were a pilot site for the Early Support Pilot Project and I was lucky to be part of a great multi-agency team which improved local services for children and families. I worked with some families for many years and it was a privilege to follow each child’s progress from toddler to teenager!

Deciding to retrain

In 2014, I made the big decision to continue my development and train as an Auditory Verbal Therapist, after attending several one-day courses and learning great practical techniques for supporting deaf babies to develop very early listening skills and spoken language through listening.

Retraining at this stage in my career has been exciting and challenging. I’ve really enjoyed studying again and updating my knowledge on everything from Theory of Mind to the latest developments in assistive technology. ‘I’ve built on my knowledge and skills as a Teacher of the Deaf and developed additional specialist skills in working with pre-school deaf children, particularly around speech acoustics and speech remediation techniques. I’m delighted to say I qualified in May.

Deaf education todayKaren Gazeley - Deaf Education

Outcomes for deaf children have improved so much and as a result we share high expectations of what deaf children can achieve with the latest technology and effective early intervention.

Training as a Teacher of the Deaf has given me the opportunity to work with deaf children across the age range and in a variety of settings, and an interesting and rewarding career. I would encourage any teachers considering training at Manchester to go ahead!

If you are a qualified teacher interested in a career as a Teacher of the Deaf, visit the MSc/PGDip Deaf Education page for more information.

One thought on “30 Years as a Teacher of a Deaf: Karen’s Story

  1. So lovely to read this Karen, I was one of your students at ovingdean. I remember your science lessons and will not embarrass you too much about one particular experiment that went wrong ! you sure made them such fun. I actually do talks both in and outside my work today, talking about deaf awareness and how to find solutions to support those alike myself. Really pleased to see how working supporting those with hearing loss is much part of your working life too. I will end this note with this.. I high majority of them children you taught are in regular touch with me today and they are all doing well, in employment. Be very proud.. Lisa Baldock nee Bailey


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