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The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

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Classroom for the Deaf Returns to Campus

OSD once again offering classes for deaf/hard of hearing children
Jennie Higgins (left), preschool teacher for the OSD, signs “what you are doing?” to a student while Jenna Gonzales, a sophomore deaf education major, observes.

Returning back on campus from a covid-hiatus, a school offered for pre-k through first grade students is once again seeing classroom time in Canning Hall. This school that takes place in Canning Hall is the Oklahoma School for the Deaf (OSD), a satellite of the main campus located in Sulphur.

The OSD facilitates a learning environment for deaf/hard of hearing students, and is on USAO’s campus through a partnership with the institution.

Jennie Higgins, a preschool teacher for OSD, oversees the on-campus school. She creates lesson plans and teaches them, as well as works with her teacher’s assistant for support. Higgins, a 2017 graduate from USAO, works with Dr. Yunaje Hwang, associate professor of deaf education, in order to foster the connection that USAO has with the OSD.

“Dr. Hwang was my teacher, and now I’m sort of a colleague,” Higgins said. “We collaborate with them [the university] to make sure students have access to us for observations.”

One student who observes what goes on in the classroom is Jenna Gonzales, a sophomore deaf education major.

“My role is supposed to be reading and interacting with them,” Gonzales said. “I am not fluent in ASL, but being in the classroom I am learning more informal sign language.”

Having such a close observation and relationship with the students means that Gonzales is learning sign language in the “real-world” environment, in tandem with her learning ASL in the classroom. She both observes and works with the students in the mornings before heading to class in the afternoons.

The typical school day is not unlike that of a mainstream pre-school day. Students arrive, have a bit of free time, and then they gather for a circle. Weather and greeting follow, and then it’s play time on the playground. After, there is exploration with math, reading, and art at the student’s current level of learning. Then lunch time is in the cafeteria, followed by naptime. One more exploration time takes place before the students go home.

“The deaf school is all about sign language, and the teachers know about deaf cultures,” Dr. Hwang said. “The deaf ed majors have a great opportunity to observe how deaf educators interact with deaf students.”

Dr. Hwang also said that the deaf education students will also make and do reading activities for the students enrolled in the OSD.

OSD maintains its relationship with the campus in several different ways, according to Higgins.

“I want to see us be able to take advantage of what is here on campus such as music performances and art illustrations for the students,” Higgins said. “We would love to find those opportunities to collaborate with USAO and to be a part of the campus as we can.”

She also said that along with lunch in the cafeteria, the students of the OSD also sometimes go to Nash Library to visit the cats.

With OSD returning to campus again after a few years, Higgins said she hopes to see the program grow after being dormant. She said two students are currently enrolled in the program and she would love to see it double by December.

“It’s amazing to see how much patience Jennie has with these students, and how involved she is with how much they’re learning,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales also said that this is the perfect opportunity to see deaf students interacting in the classroom environment, as she has only had experience with the mainstream classroom before.

OSD will host an open house for faculty and students to come and observe Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in classroom 116, located in Canning Hall.


Paul Tointigh is a fourth-year communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Ray Thomas-Lapham
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About the Contributor
Paul Tointigh
Paul Tointigh, Senior Writer
Paul is a fourth-year communication major, having obtained his associate’s degree in Arts from Redlands Community College. Paul transferred to USAO and became a member of The Trend in the fall of 2022. He recently began a job at Viridian and is an active member of the BCM, serving on the leadership team. When he isn’t attending to his many duties, Paul can be found at the gym, attending campus ministries, or spending time playing his guitar. Experience with The Trend: Senior Writer: Jan. 2024 - present Managing Editor: Dec. 2022 - Dec. 2023 Contributing Writer: Aug. 2022 - Dec. 2022