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January 27, 2003

Medal for Kathy

From: Redland Bayside Bulletin, Australia - 27 Jan 2003

By Linda Muller
Tuesday, 28 January 2003

When Kathy Johns speaks so passionately about her job, it is easy to see why she was chosen for an Australia Day Public Service Medal.

Kathy, 40, of Thornlands is head of early special education services at the Redland Special School, a position she claims is "her life".

"There is no way that teaching is a job. It's what I'm about," she said.

Born hearing-impaired, Kathy said she had "grown through the ranks" and her current position was her way of "giving back".

"I work in an early intervention setting (for up to six year olds with a disability) and I am a product of that," she said.

But despite being the first deaf student to be mainstreamed (in education) in South Australia on a pilot program, Kathy said becoming a teacher as a deaf person had been an uphill battle.

She nevertheless survived bureaucracy and graduated in 1983 and since has worked with children with a range of disabilities including deaf children.

The Redland Special School early intervention program has more than 100 students and is the second biggest unit in Queensland.

"The program prepares them for school and offers awareness of their disability," she said.

Kathy said she liked to try something innovative at each position she has held.

At Redlands this meant piloting a research-based program applying behaviour analysis with children with severe autism, a program now in its third year and proving a success.

She has also brought a signing choir to the school, something she has run wherever she has gone for the past 16 years.

The choir, a popular addition at many local concerts, teaches parents and staff how to communicate.

"Changing a life may not have a huge impact on the community, but the impact on the family is huge. We do some good stuff in a minority field," she said.

Fellow teacher Lorraine Furness who, together with school principal Jill Innes, nominated Kathy for the award, said Kathy was the "best boss I've worked for".

"She looks out for the staff not only professionally but personally as well. She's special," Lorraine said.

Kathy has been Quota's Deaf Woman of the Year on two occasions and also won a Rotary Excellence in Teaching award in 2000.

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