Monday, August 17, 2009

Deaf teacher could learn more this week about her future in Andover

Source Link - Deaf teacher could learn more this week about her future in Andover

The American Sign Language teacher fighting for her job at Andover High School may learn more this week about her future working in the school district.

Daniela Ioannides, 44, of Methuen, was told in June that she would not be asked back to teach at Andover High after repeatedly failing a state teacher certification exam.

Ioannides, who was born deaf, contends the Massachusetts English competency exam for prospective teachers is discriminatory against the hearing-impaired.

Thanks to a state waiver program for uncertified teachers, Ioannides has taught American Sign Language at the high school for the last five years.

But before her waiver can be renewed for another year, Andover Superintendent Claudia Bach said the School Department must attempt to hire a certified American Sign Language teacher.

After posting the job opening, the School Department has received just one application for the position, according to Andover Human Resources Director Candace Hall.

Hall said the candidate was interviewed last week and that a decision related to the opening could be made this week.

To become a certified teacher in Massachusetts, educators must pass the English competency exam and a second exam specific to their subject area.

But there is no certification test in the state for American Sign Language teachers.

And because she was born deaf, Ioannides said her English speaking and reading skills are not at the same level as someone who has heard and used the language since infancy.

Ioannides said she took the English competency test for a fourth time in the spring, but did not pass.

On July 10, Ionnides sat down with David Haselkorn, associate commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to discuss her concerns over the state's certification standards.

"They seemed very open," said Ioannides through a sign language interpreter. "I was heartened by the fact that they'd be willing to discuss it, look into it and include me in the process."

State education department Spokesman JC Considine wrote in an e-mail to The Eagle-Tribune that Ionnides was invited to participate in a review of the certification standards, along with other teachers and the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

"We found her to be very helpful in providing information on what other states are doing with respect licensing ASL teachers," wrote Considine. "We have agreed to look into these issues from a policy perspective."

In Florida, Ionnides said certified American Sign Language teachers are required to earn both a bachelor's degree and a certification through the American Sign Language Teachers Association, rather than a subject-specific state certification exam.

"I think it would be a great improvement, not just for me but for everybody else who (is hearing impaired and) has tried to take and pass this literacy test and has not been able to," said Ionnides.