Sarah Ammerman, M.E.D., Ph.D., never thought she would end up at the Smith College/Clarke School Graduate Program in Teacher Education. But the minute she stepped into her first classroom with children with hearing loss, her mind was made up.

As an undergraduate at Eastern Kentucky University, Ammerman had developed a strong background in comprehensive deaf education. At the time, many families were beginning to pursue a listening and spoken language approach and her advisor suggested that she learn more about the field. Right away, she made an appointment to visit Clarke and meet with professor Alan Marvelli and then Clarke president, Dennis Gjerdingen.

“The sounds of the students talking, joking, and playing hit me over the head. I had never heard deaf kids who sounded like this before. I had never seen deaf kids reading on grade level. I knew that working with these children was what I wanted to do.”

After earning a Master’s degree in Deaf Education from the Smith/Clarke program in 2002, Ammerman went to work at Clarke’s Bryn Mawr, PA location. Memories of her first classroom experiences are very dear to her. She says that it was particularly rewarding to be a part of the (then) first auditory/oral school in the area something that parents had been hoping for, for a long time.

Now in its 41st year, the internationally acclaimed Smith/Clarke M.E.D. Program has trained more than 1400 teachers of the deaf, working in all 50 states and 34 countries. The program focuses on a listening and spoken language approach for children with hearing loss who use cochlear implants and/or hearing aids. Students work with children at several academic levels, from preschool through middle school, both in the classroom and in the communication lab. They also have unique opportunities to develop personal relationships with children by participating in special school events, and students can participate in practica at four Clarke School locations in the Northeast. Although all M.E.D. students are required to be on the Smith campus in Northampton, MA during the two summer semesters, during the school year they have the option of attending classes in real-time via synchronous video technology. These students conduct their practica from Clarke’s Boston and Pennsylvania campuses.

Ammerman believes that it was partly due to the important connections she made while at Smith and Clarke that helped her earn a fully funded position in a prestigious doctoral program at the University of Arizona. She credits many of her professors in Northampton for consistently encouraging her to collaborate with colleagues and present at regional conferences. In 2009 after five rigorous years, she graduated with a Ph.D. in Special Education, with a focus on deaf education and audiology.

Today, Dr. Ammerman works at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio as an Assistant Professor in a program for teachers of the deaf. She has a fierce passion for her work and is constantly striving to stay ahead of the current research and provide her students with the most up to date curricula. She is also proud to still be a practitioner and, for at least six hours every week, works at a language lab with children of all ages. She values this time greatly, as it allows her to draw on direct experience in addition to academic theory when teaching.

Ammerman is also proud of her involvement in the Professional Preparation in Cochlear Implants (PPCI) program run by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. PPCI is an intensive 8-week training program specifically for professionals who don’t have recent training or experience working with children who use listening and spoken language. This work of keeping practitioners up to speed on the latest audiological principles stems from her education at Clarke.

“At Clarke,” she says, “the teachers continually underscored the fact that in order to be a good professional, continued growth throughout your career is a must. I couldn’t agree more.”

Back to Clarke Profiles

"Penny is a very versatile teacher and has the advanced skills and experience that allow her to build connections with parents, children and collaborating professionals. She is fun, funny, creative and goes the extra mile." –Marian Hartblay, MAT, MED, LSLS Cert. AVEd, Director of Clarke... When three-year old bookworm Angelina was born in December 2013, she failed her newborn hearing screening. Soon after, she was diagnosed with bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. Her parents were shocked, as both her older siblings have typical hearing. “Mary Jane is the consummate professional in the field of deaf education,” says Dr. Jan Gatty, Director of Child and Family Services at Clarke Northampton and a member of the Smith College faculty. “During her career, Mary Jane has worked with children of all ages, in all settings and with... “Claire has been an incredible work partner in my many years of working with Clarke,” says Laurie Farkas, director of Student Services for Northampton Public Schools. “Claire is a team player, always supporting creative ways we can improve services for students and increase their exposure... When parents of young children who are newly diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing first come to Clarke Philadelphia, their initial contact is often with Clarke’s Early Intervention Coordinator Jeana Novak M.A., LSLS Cert. AVEd. Kristen McCuen, whose two young sons receive Clarke services,... When Emily Hewlings was an infant, her family suspected very early on that she had a hearing loss. “We had a couple of pretty loud dogs,” said her father, David, “and Emily would never wake up when they barked.” Tracy Boland has identical twin boys. And although one is hearing and one is deaf, they’ve been in school together since their very first day of preschool. Boland credits Clarke’s Katie Jennings as an immeasurable part of her son Will’s success. Eight-year-old Nura is a tournament-level chess player who also loves to shoot baskets for hours on end. A future ornithologist, she recites the names of her favorite birds with the same zest as most kids do their favorite ice cream flavors. Listening to Nura sing the lyrics to one of her... Chimaza passed his newborn hearing screening, but at 20 months he wasn’t talking. Concerned, his mother, Christiana, had her son evaluated for speech and language services. At 23 months, Chimaza was diagnosed with a profound hearing loss. At 24 months, he was fitted with hearing aids. When... “Before we came to Clarke, every single speech report we received for our daughter had the word delay in it. This year, the report was different. It said, Chloe’s on track. I can’t describe how happy I was to read those words. When Birch was diagnosed with unilateral microtia/atresia (a malformed outer ear and closed ear canal, resulting in a severe conductive hearing loss) at birth, his parents joined a group made up of families with children who had a similar diagnosis. During the first picnic hosted by the group,... JennyKate Marble was initially introduced to the field of deaf education while an undergraduate at Smith College. A class with Dr. Janice Gatty, Clarke’s Director of Child and Family Services, left a lasting impression. “Many of the videos shown in Jan’s class were of Clarke students. And I... Currently, there are only 10 certified athletic trainers with hearing loss in the entire country. Clarke alum, Grady Congleton, is looking forward to becoming the 11th. “As a baby, my son Jerome always loved music—he was even humming tunes at ten months old! At two years old, Jerome was hitting all of his other development milestones, but he wasn't talking. Because Jerome passed a hearing screening at birth, we didn't learn of his condition—sensorineural... “At just a month old, Mira was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. She attended kindergarten and first grade at Clarke, which laid a foundation for language and instilled a sense of confidence in her. Sarah Ammerman, M.E.D., Ph.D., never thought she would end up at the Smith College/Clarke School Graduate Program in Teacher Education. But the minute she stepped into her first classroom with children with hearing loss, her mind was made up. “We were very nervous when Zachary began first grade in a mainstream school. But within the first few days his teacher called to tell me how impressed she was with Zach.