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January 23, 2003

Deaf student inspired by her mentor

From: Whittier Daily News, CA - 23 Jan 2003

College's Americorps program gives future teachers an edge
By Tracy Garcia , Staff Writer

NORWALK -- Rio Hondo College student Angela Garza fondly remembers her days at Cresson Elementary School in Norwalk, mostly because of the lessons she received as a student in Janice Blackwill's class.

As a youngster in Blackwill's DHH (deaf and hard-of-hearing) class, Blackwill could always be counted on for support, Garza said, and encouraged all her students to work hard and do their best in spite of their handicap.

It was because of the years she spent with Blackwill that Garza decided to become a teacher.

Now she has returned to Cresson to learn more about managing a classroom as part of Rio Hondo's Americorps Teacher Preparation program.

Garza is one of about 60 Rio Hondo Americorps students who are dispatched to local elementary schools to give them a taste of what it's like to be a teacher and handle a classroom while earning their credentials.

"I always looked up to Ms. Blackwill and wanted to become a teacher just like her because I want to give other deaf students what she gave me,' said Garza, who spoke through an interpreter. "I see how she cares about students and teaches to them and that's how I want to be.'

Garza has been at Rio Hondo College for four years and will finish up the Americorps program next fall and possibly graduate in the spring of 2004. She plans to transfer to Cal State Fullerton to earn her teaching credentials.

For Blackwill, the best part of having Garza in the classroom is being able to see how hard she's worked to achieve her goals and imagining how much more successful she will be.

"It's a delight to have students and see them being successful and going to college,' Blackwill said. "She's excellent at what she does. She has a good rapport with (students) and she's an incredible role model.

"She shows the students that they, too, can go to college and possibly get a job as a teacher. She shows them they can be a success.'

In Blackwill's class Thursday, Garza began the morning by reading to students using sign language, then asking them to point out the words to describe what she was signing to them.

Blackwill joined them for a series of brief stretching exercises, then put students to work on either reading, math or art assignments.

As Garza worked with a young girl on her reading, Blackwill looked over at her former student and said, "She's very lucky. Her parents really saw the importance of education and they passed that on to her.

"For me, it's rewarding to see former students come back,' Blackwill said. "Angela set goals for herself and she's a positive contributor to society. That warms any teacher's heart.'

Tracy Gar cia can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051, or by e-mail at .

Copyright © 2003 Whittier Daily News