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Joanne Weber, artistic director of Deaf Crows Collective in Regina and assistant professor of education at the University of Alberta, stands near her home in Regina, Saskatchewan on Jan. 9, 2020. PHOTO BY BRANDON HARDER /Regina Leader-Post

Regina woman named first Canada Research Chair in Deaf Education

"I always thought that I would never be in that category of being an accomplished scholar so I just thought, 'Well, I'll just read.'"

Growing up deaf and struggling through the mainstream education system, Joanne Weber (BA'80, ARTS'85, BEd'87)  thought academia was a world she would never enter.

Supports in schools for students like her were non-existent at the time, she said, in an interview with the Regina Leader-Post. That was in the 1960s, and Weber said she was part of the first generation of deaf children in Saskatchewan whose parents wanted them to go through the mainstream education system rather than through a separate program.

From her first day of kindergarten to the day she graduated high school, Weber — who was born profoundly deaf — said she never understood what her teachers or classmates were saying.

Instead, she took her education upon herself.

“I read my way through school. I just read. I just took books home and I studied,” Weber said in a recent interview.

“What that did for me was it cultivated a love for learning that was independent of marks … I always thought that I would never be in that category of being an accomplished scholar so I just thought, ‘Well, I’ll just read.'”

She completed a bachelor of arts in English literature at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) in this way, reading her way through textbooks because she couldn’t understand her professors. A master of library sciences from the University of Alberta (U of A) followed, even though that was not where her passion lay.

What Weber really wanted was to be a teacher, but she didn’t know how she could do that without being able to hear her students.

At the age of 25, Weber hit a breaking point and realized she was trying to be a hearing person, which led to what she called a “solitary existence.” But a few years later, she met a woman who challenged her to accept her deafness and encouraged her to learn American Sign Language (ASL).

Weber did, and in doing so, discovered a community to which she felt she belonged.

“That was a journey toward being immersed in real life, being involved in the community,” she said.

“That’s when I decided to become a teacher of the deaf.”

After learning ASL, Weber returned to the U of S and completed a bachelor of education degree. For nearly two decades since, she has worked as a resource room teacher with Regina Public Schools, working with teens who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Read the full article at https://leaderpost.com/news.

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