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May 1, 2010

Dianne Fanelli Named First Endowed Teaching Chair


Northampton, MA, May 1, 2010—Dianne Fanelli was recently named the first Helen Chamberlain Dyer and Joseph F. Dyer Teaching Chair at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. Clarke President Bill Corwin announced the award at a Staff Recognition Ceremony held at the Northampton campus on April 15, 2010.  "Dianne possesses the blend of expertise and genuine compassion and caring for kids that all teachers aspire to,” said Corwin. “ It is a pleasure to honor her in this special way."

Dianne has taught at Clarke School for 36 years and has witnessed firsthand the incredible advances in technology for deaf and hard of hearing children. “I’m singing now with them, and I never thought that would be possible. They’re able to do so much, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to see how far they can go. “

Dianne attended Smith College in Northampton, MA where she met her first deaf students. Two or three nights a week, she walked from her dorm room to Bell Hall on the Clarke campus to tutor two children in math. Immediately drawn to the challenges and rewards of teaching deaf children, Dianne developed a research paper on her experiences for her education class. “Math just wasn’t math. I could see that students were struggling with not only math concepts but language, and language associated with math.”

As a junior, Dianne attended a class taught by Dr. Alan Marvelli, Director of the Smith College/Clarke Graduate Program in Teacher Education. He encouraged Dianne to continue her interest in what she describes as “a combination of education and psychology. I was always interested in how children learn language.”   After finishing her undergraduate degree, Dianne attended the Smith College/Clarke Graduate Program in Teacher Education where she earned a Master of Education of the Deaf in 1975.

Currently, Dianne teaches second grade at Clarke, but says with a laugh that she has probably “taught in every room on every floor of this building” over her 36-year career. Her face lights up as she recounts the students whose lives she has touched. “I still get phone calls and letters,” she says. “I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished. I have a student in his first year at the University of Vermont; another owns his own pet-sitting business in Florida. One of my students, Ethan Lusted, is now the first deaf cadet at the Citadel. We stay in touch and his mother still calls me up just to chat.”

The first in her family to graduate from college and obtain a master’s degree, Dianne says she is very touched to be honored as a Teaching Chair. “It really validates all that you do day to day. Coming from a family where my parents valued education highly but never had the opportunity, it means so much.”

ABOUT THE AWARD

The Helen Chamberlain Dyer and Joseph F. Dyer Teaching Chair will honor the exemplary teaching faculty of Clarke. The Chair was established by Helen Chamberlain Dyer, a 1929 alumnae of Clarke, and her husband Joseph F. Dyer as a legacy gift upon their passing. The Dyers previously founded the Helen Chamberlain Dyer Fund (in memory of Helen’s parents) to provide annual scholarship assistance to students at the Clarke Schools.

The Dyers were lifelong advocates of oral deaf education. Helen came from Iowa to Clarke as a boarding student. As a child, Joseph attended P.S. 47, an oral deaf school in New York City. Both went on to graduate from college--Joseph from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Helen from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. In a 2004 interview, Joseph explained the Dyer’s special relationship to Clarke. “We were born long ago when choices for deaf people were limited. These experiences became our motivation to help younger people along in order for them to establish themselves in a way that was not available in the old days.” Upon Dianne’s retirement, Clarke Trustees will select a new outstanding teacher to recognize as Chair.