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May 22, 2003

Deaf Student Teaches School Valuable Lesson

From: WISH, IN - May 22, 2003

By Leslie Olsen
News 8 Education Reporter

The principal of Danville Community High School says he's learned an important lesson through a deaf student. For years, the school rejected Tiffany Spears' requests to attend. The school relented this year, and now, it's sorry it waited so long.

Tiffany Spears has lived most of her 19 years in Danville. That is where her friends are, and when she wasn't satisfied at the Indiana School for the Deaf, or Ben Davis, Danville is where she wanted to attend.

Spears is now a week away from her high school graduation after spending her senior year at Danville Community High School – with interpreter Susan Nance by her side.

Most of Spears' high school career was spent at the Indiana School for the Deaf. Principal Jim Land says he denied Spears' enrollment for several years because of misguided apprehension. "I think there are some concerns of how she will get along with the other students and how our teachers will deal with that," said Land. "And to be quite honest, things have worked out quite well - far above our expectations."

Through Nance, Spears told News 8 that that "when she first came in, she knew it was going to be hard and the counselor said that everybody is going to get used to you and in time it will get easier for you, and that's pretty much what happened."

Spears' silent world appears to have posed no real problems for teachers who thought having an interpreter in class might be disruptive. "Initially I had a lot of concerns about it, but none of those came to bear," said Bill Bradshaw, economics teacher.

The saying, 'You never know how much you can do until you try,' really applies to Spears. She says she could have stayed at the Indiana School for the Deaf, which was much easier for her, but instead, she wanted to be challenged.

In a school with very little diversity, Principal Land admits everyone has learned from Spears. She says what she appreciates is how many students have been learning American Sign Language so that they can talk to her without having to depend on an interpreter.

Thanks to the Hendricks County Flyer for their help with this story.

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