skip to content
Primary navigation

Reducing Isolation through Collaboration Transcript

[Title slide appears]

Reducing Isolation through Collaboration

Jay Fehrman; M.ED.

Principal/Manager | Deaf/Hard of Hearing & Blind/Visually Impaired Services 

Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District

[MNCDHH’s logo]

[Screen fades and Jay Fehrman appears. He is facing the camera and smiling. He begins to sign.]

- I grew up in a small town in the southwest part of Minnesota, and I was identified with hearing loss when I was three years old. I had no language, I didn't have hearing aids, and I didn't know sign language, so I was a frustrated child, and my parents invented kind of their own alternative intervention program by placing me in speech therapy appointments every week for two years. I went into kindergarten but I called myself a kindergarten dropout, because I had to take kindergarten twice. My birthday was in August so, after one year of kindergarten, I was held back and repeated kindergarten, and it was a much better experience. By that point I had acquired more language, and since then, I've felt like I've always been pursuing the acquisition of language. I completed elementary school, and then middle school, and then high school. 

[A photo of Jay in his high school football team’s uniform briefly appears onscreen to Jay’s right. He continues to sign.]

- While I was in high school, my favorite sport was football, and I wanted to play as an athlete in football, and it was a lot of fun, but it was also very frustrating, because I couldn't hear the plays that were being called from the quarterback. We decided that we would work together in a huddle and I would lip read and see the play that was being called. I was the fullback, which meant that I stood behind the quarterback and I could see the ball being hiked from the center to the quarterback, which meant the play began. The downside was that the quarterback wasn't able to call an audible to change the play on the fly, because I wouldn't be able to hear it. So I was so thankful for my teammates, you know, being willing to accept that sacrifice and kind of forgave me for that, which is really nice. I look back at myself as I was growing up and I thought that I was going to become hearing when I graduated high school. I kind of had this secret inside where I imagined myself becoming hearing and I felt isolated. There was another hard-of-hearing student that went to school at the same time that I did, but we didn't feel that different than anyone else, and so we thought that, and I thought that I would become hearing when I was an adult. I saw adults in school and other hearing classmates, but after school, and going into the summer, and into college, nothing changed and I was still deaf. I took a class where I had another deaf student. This deaf student used sign language with an interpreter and I began to learn about this, and began to acquire sign language, which really opened my mind up to a whole new world. I initially intended to work in business, but I changed my major to doing deaf and hard-of-hearing education, because I became very passionate about education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. So I did go to school to become a teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, got some training and experience. My first job was as an itinerate teacher for four years, but I also experienced isolation there because my mentor lived 40 miles away, which meant that I would work all day feeling isolated with no one to depend on or ask questions with, because 25 years ago, we didn't have the technology that we have today with FaceTime, or email, so I'd have to drive, meet this person face to face. I did feel inspired, I got ideas, brought them back, kept teaching. Later I moved to a center-based program where I had 32 deaf and hard-of-hearing students, but it was out of a high school of 2,800 students, which meant that we continued to feel isolation. But it was important to me to keep the deaf and hard-of-hearing students together as much as possible. I still became frustrated though, because the administration just really didn't understand deaf and hard-of-hearing education, and why we needed the things that we asked for. And that was one of the driving forces for wanting to become a principal. So I went back to school to take an administrative licensing program for about five years, while I continued to teach full time and being frustrated. I found my first job at Northeast Metro 916, where I became the principal for the deaf and hard-of-hearing services program there, which was a collaboration of 14 school districts. I worked hard to reduce isolation and build collaboration with the 12 teachers there. I still recognized that the profession of deaf and hard-of-hearing education had a significant shortage, and it wasn't only impacting 916 where I worked, but it was a statewide shortage through all of Minnesota. So I joined the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Collaborative Experience. I wanted to help solve some of these problems. We decided that we needed to support teachers more, so we decided to form the Collaborative Experience Conference and this was one way to reduce the isolation that professionals felt, by bringing in teachers and professionals all into one place, where they could share national research and evidence-based practices. And I remember one specifically in 2017, at the conference that I attended, I was watching someone really revered in Minnesota, the current president of Gallaudet University, Roberta Cordano, and she was presenting about the importance of early language acquisition and it occurred to me as I looked around at the audience of everyone agreeing and supporting this idea, that we were all on the same page. There were parents, teachers, administrators, all agreeing in the importance of reducing isolation and the importance of increasing early language acquisition. So that was why I became a principal. I wanted to make policy-level systematic changes and the Collaborative Conference was one solution to help reduce isolation.

[Video switches to a highlights real from the 2016 Collaborative Experience Conference.]

Visual Description:

This video gives a taste of the opening night at the 2016 Collaborative Experience Conference hosted by Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans.  

The opening scene is a logo from the Collaborative conference.

Next scene is Danelle Gournaris, a white woman with long brown hair, asking the audience if they are ready to have a good time learning ASL.

The third scene is audience members watching a video of the CODA brothers talking about how deaf and hearing people learn a second language.

Fourth scene is an audience member, a white woman with brown hair and an orange shirt,  laughing while watching the video.

Fifth scene is a group shot of participants sitting at round tables and practicing signing about what it is like to ride in a roller coaster.

Sixth scene is a video of Susan Boinis and Patty Gordon voice interpreting the CODA brother videos.  The words "Because of Classifiers!" appear on the screen - first in the lower right corner by Susan and next in the upper right corner by Patty.

Seventh scene is a close up of two participants watching the video.  One woman, in a white and blue striped sweater, watches intently as the a woman with brown hair and maroon sweater laughs.

Two woman stand up on stage.  Carole Virnig, wearing a green sweater, watches as Yara, wearing a light green hijab (Muslim headscarf) signs about her struggle of learning English and how ASL helped her and her desire to work with Deaf people.

A white woman with blond hair and black and white striped shirt stands on a chair to report back from what she learned in group - talking about environmental factors.

A black woman wearing a black hijab (Muslim headscarf) smiles as she engages in conversation.

Carole Virnig signs on-stage about how collaboration between teams, teachers, and interpreters brings such a wonderful feeling.

Final scene is the logo of the 2016 Collaborative Experience conference again.

[Ending credits for the TED Talks video appear.]

Thanks to: 

The Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing for supporting the development of the TED Talks. 

Talent – Nicole Brown, Jay Fehrman, Danelle Gournaris, Elise Knopf, Jody and Logan Waldo.

Interpreters – Gina Alvarado, Emory David Dively, Quincy Craft Faber

InHouse Media

[MNCDHH’s logo]

back to top