Marla Walsh retiring after 33 years with WESP-DHH

After 33 years of dedicated and loyal service to Wisconsin’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, Marla Walsh will be retiring from her post as the Center Director of the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WESP-DHH), effective Friday, July 3, 2020. WESP-DHH includes the Statewide Outreach program, the Deafblind grant program, and the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. This announcement comes with bittersweet emotion.  Along with warm wishes for a well deserved retirement, we acknowledge the enormous void that comes along with her departure.  Marla began her state service as a high school English teacher at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD) in 1987 and continued in that role for twelve years before becoming the WSD high school Principal in 1999.  As the school took on new initiatives, Marla added the role of Director of Student Services to her duties as Principal.  She was then appointed as the Interim WESP-DHH Center Director in 2015, and in July 2016, began serving in that role in a permanent capacity, until her retirement this week. Marla Walsh’s accomplishments as the 20th Director of the program are many.  The most notable during her time as Director has been her guidance, leadership, and tireless work in preparation for CEASD accreditation.  She has been a strong advocate and a selfless leader, who has broken barriers, launched our program into the success that it is, and through all of that, has stuck to her core beliefs in the process. It is fitting that she will forever be known as the first female Director of the WESP-DHH Program.  A title that will eternally be hers. Believing in the value of, and striving for quality education for deaf children across the state has truly been her life’s mission. Please join us in saying thank you, Marla Walsh, for your steadfast service to Wisconsin’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing children.  Your work has impacted, and will continue to impact generations to come. We bid you farewell, and wish you a wonderful retirement by including the following quote from Betty Sullivan, “There is a whole new kind of life ahead, full of experiences just waiting to happen. Some call it ‘retirement.’ I call it bliss.”  Enjoy, Marla!

School for the Deaf shakes up tradition with parade

By Andrew Tucker, Lake Geneva Regional News DELAVAN — As the school year came to a close, administrators at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf were looking for a way to brighten the mood for nine graduating seniors. So they turned to a festive parade to honor their graduates and raise the community’s spirits. While all schools have faced troubles with adapting to the quirks of online learning forced by the coronavirus, the Wisconsin School for the Deaf was particularly hard hit. Without the aid of in-person body language cues, communicating in American Sign Language is more difficult, and that added challenge made the end of the 2019-2020 school year a rocky one. With the school’s typical graduation ceremony cancelled, a number of traditions to celebrate the end of the students’ high school careers seemed to be in jeopardy. Chief among them was the procession of teachers that kicks off the ceremony and gives the educators a chance to congratulate the students. However, principal Brian Lievens did not want the lack of those well wishes to impact the students’ graduation experience. “It matters a lot to me that we as staff show our seniors that we care about them and wish them the best,” Lievens said. So, the staff decided to do the next best thing: hop in their cars and record their motorcade. With balloons, streamers and posters adorning the vehicles, the Wisconsin School for the Deaf community June 8 drove through the streets and parking lots surrounding the building. With a camera recording the entire event, the parade will kick off a virtual graduation ceremony on June 12, just as the in-person processional typically does. “The Wisconsin School for the Deaf has a beautiful history of traditions,” teacher Karla Gunn said. “The car processional was a perfect way to try to maintain this tradition.” While the school had never put on an event quite like this one, the teachers were excited to do what they could to try to help the graduates feel that their high school careers were ending on a high note. “In my seven years of working at WSD, we have never done something of this magnitude,” teacher Julie Russotto said. “However, in light of these unique circumstances, I was happy to hear another way to honor our seniors.” Even though the deaf community has been hit hard by the isolation that social distancing can create, just by recording a parade of cars, the staff and students of the Wisconsin School for the Deaf will be together as one again to cap off the school year. “We may not be able to be together in person,” school counselor Amy Dignan said. “But we can still be together through our school spirit.”

Mutual understanding: Event connects business leaders with deaf students

By Heather Ruenz, Staff Writer, Southern Lakes Newspapers A recent event at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf was held to open the lines of communication between the school’s students and area businesses. One of the school’s teachers said she has been taking small groups of students out to businesses but wanted to change things up this year. “About two years ago I took high school students – split into five groups – and dropped them off around Delavan. They were to go into a business, ask two or three questions and walk out with a business card. We then came back to campus and discussed what they learned,” said Angela Lapworth, who serves as the Transition Coordinator at WSD. During the process of teaching work-study for several years as well as touring businesses out in the community, Lapworth said she noticed a few things “In work-study, I saw many examples of poor work habits such as coming back from lunch only to go to the bathroom for another 10 minutes, not emailing their boss about absences and so on,” she explained about the students. But she said she also noticed things businesses could improve upon while on that side of the process. “I noticed a slight apprehension of what it would look like should these companies hire a deaf person,” she explained, adding that variables may include if they would need to hire an interpreter for an entire shift or what other accommodations would need to be made, if any. “Those things are what inspired this event. I believe this will help students to learn that I do not embellish when I say their behaviors are unacceptable and would not be tolerated,” Lapworth explained. “The event will also give companies the opportunity to meet students who are deaf and learn how they can work together.” The event also featured Interpreter Training Program (ITP) students from Milwaukee who served as interpreters on behalf of both the deaf students and the company representatives. Learning more The event was not actual interviews but a way for the students and companies to become more comfortable communicating. Each table at the event had questions that could be used to help start the conversation, though both the business representatives as well as the students were encouraged to ask whatever came to mind during the process. Questions – geared toward the company representatives on hand – included everything from the basics one might ask a potential employer, to those more specific to people with disabilities and members of the deaf community. The questions included the following: What skills do you expect in your employees? What do you look for in a perspective interview candidate? What advice do you have for students who are applying for jobs? Are there any soft skills that students seem to be missing when they come out of school? What type of experience are you looking for in an employee? If you had a choice between hiring someone with experience or someone…

WSD’s National Honor Society Sponsored a Community Service Project:
ASL Emergency Signs for the Delavan Police and Fire Departments

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 12, 2019 The National Honor Society’s (NHS) Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD) Chapter was very pleased to host a community service project sponsored by the school’s chapter members, the Delavan Police Department, and the Delavan Fire Department. The focus for this activity was to provide a language learning experience for the officers and firefighters, which will equip them with some knowledge and skill when working with the Deaf community at large. Several of the WSD NHS members have parents or relatives who work as police officers, firefighters, or EMTs throughout the state of Wisconsin. And, because the Wisconsin School for the Deaf has been located in the heart in Delavan for 167 years and counting, Walworth County is home to a large population of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. These factors sparked a desire to reach out and make a connection between the officers, firefighters, and the Deaf community. WSD’s Principal, Mr. Brian Lievens has a strong belief in the impact that community service projects like these can make. In addition to requiring 32 hours of community service hours prior to graduation for all WSD students, NHS has its own community service requirements to meet in order to remain an active chapter. Mr. Lievens encourages WSD’s NHS members to get involved in their communities as much as possible, “I remembered how important it was for me to participate in community service projects when I was in high school, as they helped me to see outside of myself. I look forward to the results of the community service projects our NHS members will be involved with.” This was one event that was sure to inspire learning and growth. WSD students prepared for this event by gathering lists of words and sentences commonly used in the day to day work of area police officers and firefighters. From that, students created slides with pictures or short video clips of signs from said list in American Sign Language (ASL). The classroom filled as the start time approached. Participants included seven Delavan police officers, the Delavan Fire Chief, the Delavan Fire Inspector, five WSD NHS members, three WSD Interpreters, two staff photographers, one adult staff volunteer, WSD’s Principal, and the WSD NHS Advisor. Once everyone settled in and introduced themselves, they were promptly divided up into two classrooms, separating the firefighters from the police officers, in order to focus their learning on words/sentences specific to their job duties. The event began with a warm up activity where participants used gestures to act out two scenarios without using any signs, spoken language, or interpreters. This activity encouraged participants to begin practicing and internalizing the importance of body language, facial expressions, and gestures, which are strong foundational skills important for signers and non-signers alike who wish to communicate with individuals who use ASL. The warm up activity transitioned into a classroom session, where WSD students used their ASL images, videos, and Slides presentation to teach participants the ASL signs for key…