Teacher goes extra mile to communicate

Teacher goes extra mile to communicate

Luis Garcia

Math professor Tom Greenwood answers a question during his deaf education presentation at The Norman Levan Center for the Humanities at BC.

Luis Garcia, Photo Editor

By Luis Garcia

Photo Editor


Over 140 students and faculty members packed the Levan Center at Bakersfield College to hear math professor Tom Greenwood’s presentation, “My Journey Through Deaf Education,” on April 5.

Greenwood’s presentation was the final installment in a trilogy of talks funded by a faculty research grant.

Greenwood’s research began with an idea while attending a math conference in Monterey, Calif.

He noticed there wasn’t much information or strategies on how to work with deaf students.

“It was something that wasn’t really explored, and there were two things I thought might help the research,” he said. “What can I do to be a better instructor to help deaf students?

“And how do you educate others [hearing students]?”

In order to break down the communication barrier between deaf students, and to create a student teacher relationship, Greenwood began to take American Sign Language courses at BC.

Prior to learning how to sign, he would communicate with students by writing back and forth on a piece of paper or with the help of an interpreter.

With each ASL lesson, Greenwood inched his way closer to forming student-teacher relationships with all of his students.

“ASL has helped me in terms precise with [math] language and opening doors, because I had former deaf students who I can now sign and communicate with,” said Greenwood. “That’s huge.”

“It has helped me with getting to know students more than just in the classroom.

“Just like with a hearing student, I can hear what their major is and what their life is like, and now I can do that with deaf students, too.”

His speech also shed light on the misconception that deaf people could read lips. This is difficult to do as many consonant letters have the same lip formations and vowels are not visual in connected speech.

Greenwood explained how some students in Kern County might be at a disadvantage because ASL is taught at different levels and ages.

A projector showcased photographs of his trip to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y.

These institutions offer programs specifically developed for hard of hearing students and offer bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.

It was at these schools where he learned new teaching methods that aided deaf and hearing students alike to work together in the classroom.

One such method was turning all of the seats in a classroom to face the board or the interpreter.

Another technique Greenwood incorporates into his lessons is using various color markers to highlight steps or key points of mathematical formulas.

On the technological side of teaching, Greenwood also stressed that social networking sites such as Facebook and instant messaging can help deaf students communicate and form study groups.

Scholastic websites such as My Math Lab and Web Assign allows instructors to create assignments and electronically transmit them to their class.

Students enter their answers online and the program grades the assignment and gives students’ instant feedback on their performance.