Potomac Teacher Recognized for Work With Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing Students
She will compete with 100 other teachers across the nation for a $25,000 grant.
A Potomac educator is one of two Maryland teachers competing for a $25,000 prize, given to innovative teachers across the country.
Denise Duffy, an American Sign Language teacher at McLean School of Maryland in Potomac, was recently recognized with a $2,000 grant to help fund her ASL program connecting hearing students with deaf and hard-of-hearing students through Skype and other video-call technologies. She is one of 100 winners across the United States, and one of only two teachers in Maryland to win the Unsung Heroes award from ING Financial Services. Duffy will now compete for consideration as one of the top three national winners, with prizes of an additional $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000.
“We are so excited that Denise Duffy, McLean School of Maryland teacher, has been given this award for her innovative teaching approach,” said Elizabeth Shannon, director of communications for the school
Duffy has been teaching for 13 years and is in her third year at McLean School where she teachers five levels of ASL classes. We asked Duffy to explain a little bit of her passion of ASL, why it’s important for today’s students and what she hopes to do with the award.
Patch: How did you get interested American Sign Language?
Duffy: I was actually a communications major in college. During my senior year I took a level I ASL class and fell in love with the language and deaf culture.
Once I graduated from Notre Dame University of Maryland – formerly called The College of Notre Dame of Maryland, I entered Gallaudet University to study interpreting for the deaf.
Patch: How is your ASL class taught and what inspired you to do this project?
Duffy: My higher level classes are taught with a portion of the class time being dedicated to strictly using ASL. The higher levels spend more time in the target language than the beginners, of course. We use various textbooks, Internet sites and DVDs to teach different aspect of ASL and deaf culture.
I felt that my students would benefit by having more of connection to the deaf community that I cannot provide them in the classroom. Sometimes we bring in a guest who is deaf, but it will be a wonderful opportunity for them to establish a friendship with a student from a deaf school. They can learn from students their own age and acquire new signs in ASL that are not found in traditional textbooks or instructional DVDs. Additionally, students are very familiar with Internet availability to communicate with friends.
Why not with deaf friends so they can improve their ASL?
Patch: With what schools does your class partner to learn ASL?
Duffy: We will be connecting to other students in the next month. I have not been issued the grant funds yet, and I am waiting to hear if my grant award is for a larger amount. At that time, I will purchase the computers and videophones for this project.
Patch: Do you have a favorite memory working with students to learn ASL? Why is this project important?
Duffy: I have many wonderful experiences with my ASL students. Once I was told by a former student, “I love ASL! It is the only thing I’ve ever been good at!”
I have a McLean student that wants to become a minister of a deaf church one day. I am always inspired by the smiles on my student’s faces when they learn and use ASL in my classroom.
Patch: How did you apply for the ING award? How does it feel to be recognized as one of the country's most innovative instructors?
Duffy: I am a full-time graduate student at George Mason working on my Masters in Teaching and Initiatives in Educational Transformation. Applying for a grant was an assignment last spring.
The ING grant interested me because I feel that this idea is innovative and would be enjoyable for my students. This program would benefit my hearing students as well as the deaf students. I am very proud and grateful for this opportunity!