2019 Education and Advocacy Summit: Deaf Education

This summit is for deaf education administrators and professionals and special education administrators in the areas of policy, best practices, and innovation related to educating deaf and hard of hearing students. It will be conducted in American Sign Language and spoken English.

Purpose and Benefits 

Learn about the newly released educational service guidelines optimizing outcomes for students who are deaf or hard of hearing within your districts by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE).

Seize the opportunity of a free training on the campus of Gallaudet University, a school with the primary responsibility of providing higher education to deaf and hard of hearing students.

Interact with school administrators who work with a large number of deaf and hard of hearing students in their schools.

Participate in discussions related to the federal government's programs implemented based on laws affecting students ages 0-21.

Acquire a better understanding of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention that introduces students to Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 

Review, learn more about, and develop a better understanding of the federally funded initiatives to support Gallaudet language acquisition and RIT STEM programs.

Organized by the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in partnership with the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf

Presenter bios

Lynn Dunn, MEd, has been in the educational field for over 30 years. She has worn many hats—from classroom teacher, to language specialist, to curriculum coordinator, to counselor, to outreach provider in the area of English and literacy in relation to STEM education. Dunn has taught deaf and hard of hearing students from kindergarten level through college level in the areas of life skills/independent living skills, social studies, English, and reading. In her latest role as STEM outreach coordinator, she has been involved in workshops and trainings involving the Universal Design for Learning, the Outdoor Classroom, NSTA workshops related to including STEM across the curriculum, and IXL as well as presenting on the regional and national levels on teaching English/writing skills to deaf and hard of hearing students, ACT prep, and incorporating STEM/NGSS across all subject areas.

Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, MS, is the Director of Training, Products, and Dissemination at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. She leads the team that develops and disseminates training and online learning, webcasts, information, and national resources to professionals and families of deaf and hard of hearing children, birth through high school nationally. Her experience includes 23 years working in school settings and 32 years in adult education.

David Geeslin, EdD, graduated from the Indiana School for the Deaf in 1983. He attended Gallaudet University for two years and then transferred to Purdue University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in linguistics in 1989. He received his master’s degree in deaf education from Boston University in 1991. After working in education for seven years, Geeslin returned to night school at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to earn his principal’s license. Having then rediscovered the power of education, he decided to pursue a doctoral degree in educational leadership at Indiana University while still working full time. Geeslin completed his doctoral degree in August 2006. He was the first deaf person to receive a doctoral degree from an Indiana college or university. He was selected as a 2008 Distinguished Alumnus from Purdue University.

Geeslin has been active in many policy committees, has served as an expert legal witness, and has been an active participant and volunteer in a multitude of professional and nonprofit community organizations. In 1994, he worked with other Deaf community leaders in writing and the successful passage of a statute recognizing American Sign Language in the State of Indiana. In 2008, Geeslin worked with other disabled groups on rewriting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for Indiana.

Geeslin has held a variety of positions, including teacher of the deaf in Norwell, Mass., American Sign Language (ASL) assessment consultant for Boston Children’s Deaf Network at Boston Children’s Hospital, field reviewer for University of Illinois CLAS project, and visiting lecturer for Indiana University, Vincennes University, Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), Boston University, and Purdue University as well as filling different roles at the Indiana School for the Deaf over the past 17 years, including third grade teacher, ASL assessment specialist, interim director of outreach, elementary principal, and outreach educational consultant and CEO/superintendent. In addition to his professional and volunteer work, Geeslin has been married for 30 years and stays actively involved with his two daughters and his extended family.

Michelle Koplitz, MHS, is a project officer for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). As a member of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) team, she oversees EHDI program evaluation and manages a cooperative agreement for the Family Leadership in Language and Learning (FL3) program and a supplement award for the LEND programs in support of audiology trainees. Prior to joining HRSA in 2010, Koplitz conducted an internship at the Society for Public Health Education and has worked as a communications assistant for PneumoADIP, a GAVI Alliance-funded project that supported access to supply chains for pneumococcal vaccine distribution in developing countries. Koplitz has a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in health education and health communications from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is Deaf and currently resides in Washington, D.C. Koplitz will discuss federal initiatives and programs that come out of HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health branch focusing on EHDI.

Taiyabah (Tai) Naeem, MS, is a project manager at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. She was involved in the planning of the 2019 Education and Advocacy Summit: Deaf Education, and she took on a pivotal role in the development of the preview film for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Naeem grew up in Toronto, Canada, and attended mainstreamed schools. She earned her bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Gallaudet University and her master's degree in deaf education from McDaniel College. In the past, Naeem has taught both high school chemistry and medical terminology courses at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf. She enjoys being a mother to her 3-year-old son.

Barbara Raimondo, Esq., is a longtime advocate for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing children and their families. She currently serves as the executive director of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD). She was associated with the American Society for Deaf Children for 12 years, first as a board member and later as a staff member. She has also worked as a staff attorney at the National Association of the Deaf. She has been a board member and board president at the Maryland School for the Deaf. Raimondo received her law degree from George Mason University. She and her husband are the parents of two deaf adults.

Optimizing Outcomes for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Educational Service Guidelines is a recently published book (National Association of State Directors of Special Education, 2018) that details the needs of deaf and hard of hearing students, the steps schools and programs must take in order to serve them well, and available resources to support those efforts. It includes an implementation tool that programs can use to assess their strengths and gaps which will help them in planning in how to close those gaps. Written by a team of experts from a broad range of backgrounds and communication approaches, this book is a comprehensive source of information and guidance.

This session, led by a co-chair of the writing team, will outline the information in the book and facilitate discussion as to how attendees can use this document to improve educational outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing students in their state or community.

Julie Rems-Smario is an education programs assistant in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit at the California Department of Education. She is also currently a doctoral student studying educational leadership for social justice at the California State University in East Bay. Her work includes directing California’s Newborn Hearing Screening Project (NHSP), supervising SB 210 data, developing resources for families of deaf and hard of hearing children, and providing technical assistance to K-12 deaf education. During her free time, Rems-Smario volunteers as one of the public relations directors of a national campaign, Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K). With the LEAD-K team, she is involved in legislative work with several states to establish language acquisition milestones in American Sign Language and English for deaf and hard of hearing children (ages 0-5) for literacy success in kindergarten. In 2017, she was honored with Deaf Women United’s Deaf Woman of the Year award and Deaf Person of the Year by DeafLife (2015) for her early work with LEAD-K. In 2007, she was also recognized by eWomenNetwork with the International Humanitarian Award and by CNN as one of the CNN Heroes for her work with Deaf survivors of domestic and sexual violence as the founding director of DeafHope.

Laurie VanderPloeg is director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Prior to this position, she served as the director of special education for the Kent Intermediate School District. She has dedicated more than 38 years to ensuring that students with disabilities have access to a high-quality education and empowering those students to succeed. VanderPloeg began her career as a high school special education teacher at Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Mich., after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. She taught high school and middle school students for 15 years before returning to Grand Valley State University to earn her master’s degree in special education administration. She then served as the supervisor of special education for the Grand Rapids Public School District and as a special education consultant with the Michigan Department of Corrections. At OSEP, VanderPloeg’s main focus is developing and supporting an effective system that meets the unique individual needs of children with disabilities.

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