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November 28, 2002

Students' sad sign of love and respect

From: Hobart Mercury, Australia - 28 Nov 2002


THE children performed with verve tinged with sadness yesterday. After 16 years, Virginia Brown was leaving Claremont Primary School to work in England.

Ms Brown has spent countless hours conducting the school's signing choir, which includes deaf, hearing-impaired and hearing children.

"I feel teary," she said.

Assistant principal Kevin Treweek said the school was indebted to her.

"She has worked with the choir in her own time as an extra-curricular activity," he said.

"And she will be irreplaceable in the school in the dimension she adds in the integration of students."

Claremont Primary is part of the Claremont Project which caters for deaf and hearing-impaired students. It also involves Claremont High and Claremont College.

It is a bilingual-bicultural program to develop deaf children's first or natural language -- Auslan -- so they have language skills comparable to hearing children.

English is taught as a second language.

This approach enables deaf children to be competent language users able to access the school curriculum, rather than remedial students.

A teacher of the deaf in a bilingual class, which also has a regular teacher, Ms Brown said the children used Auslan every day, in school and playing with their peers.

"There is no other language that's visual," she said.

"And the hearing children enjoy it."

The choir is dear to Ms Brown's heart. "The choir is seen in the wider community, and all the children in it are seen in the same light," she said.

While she will be missed, Ms Brown was glad to be able to say that her role would be taken on by Krista Mannington.

"She is a wonderful young deaf teacher of the deaf and I am sure the choir will do well," she said.

© Davies Bros