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April 2, 2011

Clarke Northampton Celebrates Retiring Educators

April 2, 2011—Seven outstanding educators from Clarke Northampton will retire at the end of this school year. Bill Corwin, Clarke’s President said, “Debra Bak, Claire Blatchford, Pam Goodrow, Dennis Moulton, Michael O’Connell, Judy Sheldon and Bob Storm have made an indelible imprint in the hearts and minds of hundreds of students and the entire extended Clarke family. We will miss them, we wish them well, and we will never forget their passion for educating children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Their dedication is something we can all aspire to.”

Judy Sheldon, a retiring teacher who first came to Clarke 38 years ago, taught students decades before the advent of newborn screening, cochlear implants and digital hearing aids. “In those days, Clarke was mostly a boarding school, and many of the teachers lived on campus or worked in the dorms. There was no captioning on TV, so we sat beside children and oral interpreted; students couldn’t use telephones so we spoke directly to the parents. In that way, teachers became very connected to both the students and the families.”

Since then, advanced hearing technologies have revolutionized the field of deaf education. “Nobody would have guessed fifteen years ago that we’d be where we are now. Almost all of the students at our school have cochlear implants; most of the older students have their own phones; and thanks to email and computers, all of our students have access to the entire world right at their fingertips. In that way,” says Sheldon, “the school has changed. However, connections between the families, the children, and the teachers have not changed. That’s what’s so special about this community. In my mind there’s nothing like it.”

Retiring teacher, Bob Storm, will continue part-time in his current role of Alumni Liaison. He too marvels at the shift in technology and lifestyle for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. “Every time I have a conversation on the phone with a deaf student, I hang up and I sit there with a feeling of awe.”

Storm’s admiration extends beyond the realm of technology to Clarke students themselves--past and present. “One of the things that attracted me about Clarke--and I never expected to spend my entire professional 42-year career here--is the way the children treat each other like brothers and sisters. This is and always has been a warm, inviting, nurturing and joyful environment. It’s a much closer knit student body than you’d find in most other schools.”

“That I’ve had the opportunity to teach so many students as young teenagers and now--in my capacity as Alumni Liaison--work with them as colleagues, is a gift. I see how they’ve grown, how they’ve become parents, how they’ve become successful. In many cases, they are now teaching me--about their lives, about new technologies. It’s a relationship that I treasure, and that has truly come full circle.”