Destined to be a Teacher
Many people remember that one teacher who made an impact on their life. For Arlene Redmond it was her second-grade teacher, Ms. Claudia. Arlene says, “The work that I have done, the person I am, are the result of having been born to deaf parents and having Ms. Claudia in second grade.”
Arlene is referred to in the deaf community as a CODA (a child of a deaf adult). Her first language was sign language, a language which is symbolic and visual. This made learning how to read very difficult. “Reading was taught phonetically,” she says, “which requires the ability to put sounds together to formulate words; I grew up in a silent household. Ms. Claudia worked with me every day after school to learn how to read. The experience of working closely with her, and learning to read, opened a whole new world for me and made me want to become a teacher, a Ms. Claudia.” She never rethought that decision.
In high school, Arlene’s guidance counselor knew that she wanted to pursue a career as a teacher. Knowing her background, she encouraged Arlene to become a teacher of the deaf.
She attended Illinois State University and graduated in December of 1978, not expecting to find a teaching position until the beginning of a new school year. However, Phyllis Winter, the principal of Children of Peace, had to replace a teacher of the deaf who had resigned during the Christmas break. She hired Arlene for the Holy Trinity Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.
It was not a new environment for Arlene. She says, “I was very familiar with the school because for years the building was used on the weekends for ministry to the Catholic Deaf Community. I remember telling my mom as I wandered the school building that one day I was going to be a teacher for the deaf at this school. This was when I was about 10 years old. I have no doubt but that for me, it was God calling.”
During her 37-year tenure, she served both deaf students and hearing students assuming many different roles: a teacher of the deaf serving students K-12th grade; the campus director when Children of Peace consolidated with three other Catholic schools; the principal for six years for both the hearing and deaf divisions; teacher of speech skills to deaf students; advocate for parents of deaf children in seeking the services for their children; and school administrator. Possibly most important to Arlene, she supervised the Holy Trinity Deaf Program for almost 30 years.
In looking back on this career, Arlene is grateful and philosophical. “I have been inspired to be a better teacher and administrator by many colleagues and partners, all of us working together to provide a quality education for deaf students and support for their families. I am grateful to Rush Medical Center, Rush Nero-Behavioral Center, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Illinois Resource Center which provided our program with many resources.
None of this would have happened had I not been born to deaf parents. They were compassionate and caring people despite all the obstacles they had to face. We live in a world that does not always accept those with differences. I hope that my work with deaf children has given them the skills to be successful in that world.”
Arlene retired in 2016 to tend to her health and focus on her family, husband and three adult sons, Frank, James and Mark.