by Claire Miller
With Anne Sullivan Macy as her guide, Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing as a baby, learned to read Braille, use sign language and communicate with others.
College of Education doctoral student Beth Miller was inspired by Macy’s story and decided at an early age that she, too, wanted to make a difference in the lives of children like Keller.
“When I was in third grade, I read a lot of biographies about people like Anne and at that time I just knew I wanted to teach deaf children,” she said. “And I never wavered.”
Miller taught students who are deaf and hard of hearing for more than 20 years -- an experience that took on a whole new dimension when she married a man who is deaf and they adopted a deaf child.
“I am a parent with a deaf child and I worked hard to ensure she had a well-rounded educational experience,” she said. “I learned so much being on the other side of the table that I ended up working with other parents with children who are deaf.”
Now, Miller is bringing her experiences as both a teacher and a parent to her work as a student in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education. She is working toward her doctorate in the Education of Students with Exceptionalities program with an emphasis on deaf education.
In addition, she’s working as the project director for College of Education professors Susan Easterbrook’s and Amy Lederberg’s Foundation for Literacy grant.
In 2011, Easterbrooks, Lederberg and their team received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Special Education Research to help them continue developing and implementing curriculum and early intervention strategies for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students with hearing loss.
“We developed the curriculum for children who had some functional hearing and could understand some speech, and now we’re adapting that curriculum for children who don’t have any functional hearing,” Miller explained. “We’re also looking to broaden the curriculum to use with different age groups.”
With her teaching background and her experiences developing curriculum for students with hearing loss, Miller is well suited for the pro bono advocacy work she does with parents of children who are deaf in schools across the state. She attends meetings between parents and administrators to discuss what services school systems can provide to students such as asking a fellow classmate to be a notetaker or assigning an inclusion teacher to a classroom to work with a child who is deaf.
“Parents are really in the driver’s seat when it comes to advocating for their children,” she said. “I help find a middle ground to ensure services are provided for students who are deaf and that those services work well.”
This story was originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of the College of Education's Milestones magazine.