Ashley Brashears has come full circle — from a student with hearing loss in Baltimore County to a Baltimore County Public Schools teacher working with students who are hard of hearing.
“I have always wanted to teach students who have hearing loss because I was in a similar situation as they are. There are so many challenges and obstacles that each person with a hearing loss encounters every day. My hope is to inspire children who are deaf and hard of hearing to become the best they can be and not to allow the disability to hold them back from what they want to achieve,” Ashley says.
Ashley lost her hearing at 18 months and came to Villa Cresta in Grade 1 as part of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. She recalls her teachers and speech therapists helping her learn language and spelling and helping her understand how to interact in social situations.
Baltimore County Public Schools serves students with hearing loss through a continuum of services within community schools and at the regional programs for the deaf and hard of hearing at Villa Cresta Elementary, Pine Grove Middle and Parkville High schools. Currently 290 students with hearing loss attend BCPS.
While she was a student at Villa Cresta, Ashley was placed in a general education class in Grade 5 and had an interpreter to assist her with her studies. After finishing Pine Grove Middle School, Ashley attended her zoned school, Kenwood High, instead of Parkville High School. At Kenwood, Ashley was a cheerleader as well as homecoming queen.
After graduation, Ashley attended the Community College of Baltimore County and Towson University. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2012, and now teaches students with hearing loss in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at Villa Cresta, the same program she participated in when she was a student.
“Because I had such a wonderful support system at Villa Cresta, they inspired me to become a teacher for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. I wanted to give that support back to the students and their families,” says Ashley.
When asked how education for the hard of hearing has changed from when she was a student, Ashley responds, “Education for deaf and hard of hearing students is more closely aligned with the general education curriculum than it was years ago. The students are expected to have access to the same curriculum, although modified, and to be successful learners. Deaf/hard of hearing students are also placed in general education classes more often with supports such as FM systems [assistive learning devices], interpreters, and itinerant services. Technology is continuously improving, and it plays a huge role in students’ education. Smart boards, Promethean Boards, YouTube and iPads are used in our classroom to enrich the learning environment. One thing I do have to point out is that a longer recess time was the thing that I missed, and I wish for my students to be able to have longer recess.”
Ashley’s colleagues praise her work and describe her as the kind of teacher who might inspire her own students to follow in her footsteps.
“Ashley is enthusiastic, conscientious, persistent and patient with her students,” says Penny Brown, Villa Cresta’s assistant principal.
“She is enthusiastic and motivated. Ms. Brashears works hard to connect with her students and is a pleasure to work with,” says Stephen Durst, education interpreter.
Dr. Diane Perkins, the Deaf/Hard of Hearing team leader in the BCPS Department of Special Education, concludes, “Ashley provides a great testament to inclusion and the continuum of services through her exemplary success.”
Story by Dolores Pierorazio, Department of Communications and Community Outreach