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Keuka College News

The French Connection

marthafrench3Assistant Professor of Education Martha French doesn’t just teach students who want to become teachers, but she also shares her knowledge with teachers of deaf students seeking new ways to reach their pupils. 

Her next in-service training session is scheduled Oct. 9 at the Rochester School for the Deaf and is planned for elementary school teachers who want to help in the development of individualized language plans for diverse language learners.

French became interested in the education of deaf students while working as a youth counselor at the South Carolina State School for the Deaf and Blind (her first job out of college).

She would go on to teach children who were deaf or hard of hearing and earned a M.Ed. in special education with an emphasis in deaf education (her B.S. is in psychology with an emphasis in counseling).

French spent 18 years working at Gallaudet University, a federally funded university for deaf students in Washington, D.C. Fifteen of those years she was literacy curriculum specialist for Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, part of the Clerc Center at Gallaudet. Kendall serves as a model program for schools throughout the nation.

She began teaching at Keuka in 2005 and, that year also began consulting with the director, Marilyn Curley, and staff of the Early Childhood Department at the Rochester School for the Deaf on the assessment and development of language for deaf children.

“After I left Gallaudet in 1996, I was hired by the university on contract to write a book,” said French. The result? A two-volume publication: Starting with Assessment: A Developmental Approach to Deaf Children’s Literacy and The Toolkit: Appendices for Starting with Assessment Perspectives in Education and Deafness.

The first volume discusses the development of language and literacy. It presents tools and strategies to help teachers assess reading, writing, and conversational language. Guidelines and methods for literacy planning, instruction, and record keeping are also included. The “toolkit” (volume No. 2) contains checklists and assessment tools developed specifically for deaf children in the areas of reading, writing, conversational language development, student self-assessment, and parental input.

“Marilyn (Curley) and I attended an early childhood conference, where we met,” said French. “She knew of the book and my work and asked if I would do training for them (the Rochester School for the Deaf).”

French has spent many winter and summer breaks from Keuka College consulting with Curley and staff ever since.

And the Rochester School for the Deaf is not the only school to call upon French for consultation and training. Since the publication of her book, she has provided workshops and consultation to programs serving deaf students in North Carolina, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Wisconsin. In May, she will provide a day of training to teachers at Rhode Island School for the Deaf.

After Gallaudet, French went to work for Success for All (SFA) Foundation Inc in Baltimore, Md. There she developed curricula and related materials for literacy instruction, including training materials, on-going professional development materials and accompanying video modules. She collaborated with Nancy Madden to develop and/or revise the SFA literacy program materials for the elementary level (Tutoring Manual, Reading Wings, Writing Wings, and Writing from the Heart). She also designed and developed reading program materials for middle school students (The Reading Edge).

French has authored half a dozen articles related to reading and writing and published in Perspectives in Education and Deafness and Perspectives for Teachers of the Hearing Impaired.

A member of the Keuka College Curriculum Committee, French teaches EDU 275: Early Language and Literacy, EDU 316: Literacy and the Diverse Learner, and EDU 210: A Systems Perspective in Special Education.

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