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Deaf & Hard of Hearing (DHH)

MDUSD School Board hears student report on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Westwood Elementary!

MDUSD Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark (l-r) stands with Board Vice President Erin McFerrin, Westwood Elementary student Jayden Yanez, Board Member Cherise Khaund, students Anahi Garcia Gonzalez and Pablo Cabrera, Board Member Linda Mahyo and Student Board Member Susana Barrios after their presentation. (Note: Student Rey Castaneda Gomez also contributed to the presentation, but was unable to attend the Board Meeting.)

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board was delighted to hear a presentation from three Westwood Elementary students about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at the school on Wednesday, Oct. 25th. Students Pablo Cabrera, Anahi Garcia Gonzalez and Jayden Yanez talked about what it's like to be deaf and other information that they previously presented to their classmates in September for Deaf Awareness Month. You can watch their presentation here. Board Member Cherise Khaud said the presentation made her want to learn American Sign Language and Board Member Linda Mayo said her children learned sign language and were able to use it to communicate with people while shopping and in other public places. Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark thanked the students for sharing their report with the Board. "I’m your biggest advocate and your biggest fan," he said. "And I definitely want to thank the parents for trusting us with your beautiful children."

We are very proud of our Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Program at Westwood, our DHH students, and the dedicated staff who provide these students with high quality educational experiences every day:

K-2 Special Day Class Program - Teacher: Joni Kirby, Assistants: Marcia Bloodgood, Reece Frazer, Carolyn Roe
3-5 Special Day Class Program - Teacher: Melinda Reade, Assistants: Becky West, Zainah Kanso
ASL Interpreter Team: Danielle Adams, Kalthleen Lozano, Juanita Nickerson, Robin Pak, Kimberly Petersen
DHH Intinerant Program - Teacher: Shellye Plancarte

Principal Nancy Klinkner with DHH Student

Celebrating Deaf Awareness!


Westwood is proud to be the home of MDUSD's Deaf and Hard of Hearing program! We have two amazing classes with incredible teachers and aides: Kindergarten - 2nd grade with Miss Joni and 3rd - 5th grade with Mrs. Reade.


Learn the ABCs in ASL

Spotlight on Westwood Elementary School's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program

Westwood Elementary is part of a continuum of Deaf and Hard of Hearing programs in MDUSD

Students in Westwood Elementary's K-2 Special Day Class learn to read (above left) and do math problems (above center) using sign language. During a 1st-grade library visit, an interpreter signs while a general education teacher speaks using a device that amplifies her voice in students' hearing aids (above right).

In recognition of Deaf Awareness Month, the Friday Letter is spotlighting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program at Westwood Elementary School in Concord, which is part of a continuum of specialized programming in MDUSD from preschool through high school that serves students from throughout the District and County. It starts at the Robert Shearer Preschool in Pleasant Hill, then continues at Westwood Elementary, El Dorado Middle School and Concord High School, which all have special education teachers, instructional assistants and interpreters who are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). Teachers also use Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) worn around their necks, which are microphones that amplify their voices in students' hearing aids.

Westwood has two Special Day Classes that serve 16 DHH students in grades K-2 and 3-5, who need extra support in some curriculum areas. Many students "mainstream" - or attend general education classes - for subjects in which they are working at grade level. And many others are fully mainstreamed, meaning they attend general education classes with support from a sign language interpreter or the use of assistive technology. Those with hearing devices attend schools throughout the District. Some DHH students choose only to use sign language, but do not express themselves orally. Some speak and sign, and others choose to communicate solely through speech. The program also includes students who are not fluent in English, who receive English Language Development instruction.

Principal Nancy Klinkner, who has headed up the school for nine years, said the staff works to make the campus welcoming and inclusive for all students. Besides mainstreaming DHH students in general education classes, sometimes general education students "reverse mainstream" by attending DHH classes. Mainstream students also often ask interpreters how to sign specific words and then sign them to their DHH classmates. And the after school CARES program plans to hire a teacher who will teach sign language to its students.

DHH teacher Joni Kirby said the school stresses to all students that DHH students "are just like you or I--they just don't hear so good." They take the same tests as other students, but sometimes receive accommodations such as a specialized screen that includes a sign language interpreter or closed captioning. Those who are in the Special Day classes also have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) with educational goals they are working to achieve.

Interpreters Robin Pak Congi and Juanita Nickerson said they love using sign language to communicate with students. Pak Congi, who has a sister who is deaf, grew up knowing sign language. "I like to help them learn new words and expand their vocabulary," Pak Congi said. "That is rewarding to me." Nickerson, who learned sign language in college, and she enjoys the challenge of expressing ideas through signs, which don't always correspond exactly to speech. She is also impressed by how easily general education students adapt to seeing interpreters and students communicating in sign language or with hearing devices on campus. "They're very accepting," she said. 


Pablo Cabrera, who is mainstreamed in a 4th-grade class, uses assistive technology to hear. He is deaf due to microtia, which means he has very small ears. A Pittsburg resident, Pablo says he likes Westwood because the teachers and staff are meeting his needs by teaching in ways that are easy for him to understand. 
Pablo has also helped other students to understand what it's like to be deaf by giving a presentation to the school about microtia on Nov. 9, 2022, U.S. Microtia Awareness Day, when he was in 3rd grade. Klinkner said Pablo is a wonderful advocate for himself and for other DHH students. "He approached me and said, 'I have a presentation all ready," she recalled. "It was phenomenal. It was like TED Talk!"


Klinkner is an enthusiastic champion of the DHH and other Special Education programs at the school. "It's an awesome program," she said. "We also have two classes of students with multiple disabilities and I think it's fabulous because all of our students really learn about inclusion--in the classroom, on the playground, and on field trips. Everybody understands and it's very intentional."