Teacher Appreciation Week Special Education Stories: Everett Smith

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, the SJSU Lurie College of Education met with some of its students, alumni, and faculty from the Special Education department to learn more about their journeys into the field of special education.  Read about or listen to Everett Smith’s journey below!

Hello!  My name is Everett Smith.  I’m a deaf person and a professor here at San Jose State University.  I was born deaf and ‘How did I want to become a teacher?’, ‘What was that process like?’  Well, growing up, I learned sign language. My Mom actually attended San Jose State when she found out that I was deaf she took ASL classes here and that was a long time ago when I was a baby.  I started to learn sign language from her and I never envisioned that I would become a teacher honestly. I had many aspirations. One example is during high school and after I finished high school I was involved in building – I was a contractor, operating a tractor, a hauler.  I also aspired to become a computer programmer. I actually majored in computer science in my community college. I eventually decided I wanted to become a psychologist, so I switched to that major because I wanted to work directly with deaf clients without an interpreter in the middle in that setting because some deaf people feel that sharing their personal, private information through an interpreter with their therapist or psychologist wouldn’t work for them, so having a psychologist who is deaf and who understands their background, has walked in their shoes, would really be beneficial for the community.  So I started in that major at the community college, Cabrillo College, one of the ASL teachers there, several of them said ‘Why don’t you come TA for us?’ and I thought ‘Why not?’ ASL is my native language, so I accepted that position and I started TA’ing there. I started to realize that I really loved working with students. It was really impactful for me – one of my favorite parts was that I learned a lot from them not only teaching them and being their teacher but it was like they were teaching me, and that was really a foundation. I noticed that patience to work with students came really naturally for me.  I had appreciation for the differences between students, how they are really diverse and every person is different and learning how to meet their individual learning styles and abilities. I really loved that challenge to learn how to connect with each student as an individual. I TA’d for a couple years, went along that path, and decided I wanted to become an ASL teacher. I started teaching at a really small high school in Santa Cruz for 3 years and that gave me such a strong foundation in teaching. I learned so much that was really applicable to life and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else. That is really the reason that I became a teacher here at San Jose State finally because of that foundation.  In 2016, I became a teacher here, not only a deaf teacher of ASL but also a deaf education professor. So that is my story of how I became a deaf educator under the special education department and I really enjoy this profession. It feels so natural to me and it feels that all of my experience, cumulatively, has brought me here to share my language with all of you. That you so much for listening – I really look forward to working with you in the future possibly!”

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