Profiles

Penny Gill, MED, 2017 Teacher of the Year at Clarke Northampton

"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 Northampton

Penny Gill, MED, recipient of the 2017 Scott D. Fletcher “Teacher of the Year” award, currently works with children and families in Clarke Northampton’s Parent-Infant/Toddler program, and for the past few years has also worked with children in Mainstream settings. She has also been a classroom teacher and speech and communication specialist in Clarke Northampton’s Integrated Preschool Program.

Penny remembers meeting children with hearing loss for the first time while working at an Easter Seal Camp in New Hampshire almost 40 years ago. “This was long before cochlear implants, digital hearing aids and Universal Newborn Hearing Screening,” she recalls “Some of the kids used spoken language but most of them signed. I was awed by the way they figured out the world and by the ingenious ways they found to communicate. It was love at first sight! That summer, I started a journey that has been new and interesting, every day since.”

While working at camp each summer, Penny earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders at the University of New Hampshire. After college, Penny worked at a group home for women with developmental delays—all of whom were deaf—in Lynn, MA.

“Those women, and the staff that worked with them, gave me a crash course in everything related to deafness. As the only hearing person in the house, I soon took on the role of interpreter and pursued the Intensive Interpreter Training Program at Northeastern University. I worked as an interpreter in a variety of settings, including the medical field, college settings and social services. It was as an interpreter/aide in the Amherst Public Schools that I got my first taste of teaching. Here I found something that I was passionate about!”

Miss Penny, as her students call her, came to Clarke Northampton in the early 90s and earned her MED through the Clarke-Smith College graduate program collaboration (now the Clarke – Fontbonne Northeast Collaborative). In 2003, Miss Penny began working in Clarke Northampton’s Preschool Program. “Talk about the most fun job in the world!” Penny says. “I loved seeing the way the teachers used toys as props to help the children learn language!”

At Clarke, Penny has filled many crucial roles. She has been a preschool classroom teacher, a Listening and Spoken Language one-on-one teacher, an Early Interventionist and a mainstream itinerant teacher of the deaf.

“It’s been amazing to be a teacher of the deaf through some of the changes that have come about over the years,” says Penny. “The effects of Universal Newborn Hearing Screening, early use of hearing aids and cochlear implants and early intervention have been incredible to witness. Kids who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to do more now than ever before!”

She adds, “Parts of the job that I have loved the most have been supporting parents through the early days and months after learning that their child has a hearing loss; helping them to know that their child will amaze them; working with the wonderful people at Clarke; training student teachers and always—always—sharing the joys of childhood.”

Penny’s glowing reputation is hailed widely at Clarke Northampton and her colleagues were eager to chime in.

“Penny Gill has been a very successful Mainstream teacher of the deaf working directly with students with hearing loss in mainstream settings and providing consultation and training to the staff of these students. Her expertise in early childhood education was particularly beneficial to us with the young children transitioning from our preschool to mainstream settings. Families often felt reassured that there would be someone familiar with their child helping with the transition. Likewise, this knowledge and familiarity with the children meant that the staff of the receiving schools received the highest quality of support. Penny is a seasoned and effective educator who also has the skills to work with adults, whether parents or school staff.” –Claire Troiano, MED, OTC, Director of Clarke Mainstream Services and Educational Administrator of K-8 Program

As a colleague, Miss Penny is widely respected. She brings a broad and in-depth experience that she shares readily with other teachers. She has an inquisitive mind, a dedication and commitment to excellence, and an understanding that collaboration builds fortitude and momentum. This means that other teachers seek her out for an opinion, her ideas, advice, and her creativity. –Marian Hartblay, MAT, MED, LSLS Cert. AVEd, Director of Clarke Northampton

“Penny is a passionate, talented, dedicated and caring teacher of the deaf, greatly loved by her students and their families, in addition to those of us fortunate enough to know her. I have had the honor and pleasure to work closely with Penny over many years, watching her engage with students in her wonderful way. She is very attuned to each child’s individual needs and has a special talent for enabling parents to feel comfortable and understood. In addition, Penny’s artistic talent and warmth characterize her fine work. We in the Clarke community are very fortunate to count Penny among us.”

“We have really appreciated Clarke's support in meeting [a student]'s needs. In particular, I want to give a huge shout-out to Penny Gill, who has genuinely become part of the LES family. She helped all of us to understand more fully how to include the child successfully in all elements of the school day. What warmth and positivity she has brought every time she's come through the door! Thank you SO much for sending Penny our way!” -Margot Lacey, Principal at Leverett Elementary School

"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.