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June 30, 2003

Attuning school life to the hearing impaired

From: Riverside Press Enterprise, CA - Jun 30, 2003

TEACHER: Cindy Baldwin wins a national award for helping deaf and hard-of-hearing students learn.



RIALTO - Cindy Baldwin sits on her little chair in front of her two little students as she gives them instructions.

"What color?" she asks holding up a red object.

"Red," said 6-year-old Laura Vera, while her classmate Eason Huerta, also 6, looks around the room.

At times, her students seem uninterested in what she is saying but she is determined that they pay attention. This is a recurring challenge that all teachers face throughout their careers. And while some have a variety of methods -- using a stern loud voice, clapping their hands, and sometimes even a whistle -- to get that attention, it's not that easy for Baldwin.

Laura and Eason were born deaf and now have cochlear implants. Baldwin is not only making sure they know their colors but she is also helping them learn how to hear and talk.

For 32 years, Baldwin has devoted her life to teaching deaf and hearing-impaired students. She was one of three teachers honored this year in Washington, D.C., by the Commonwealth Academy as one of the nation's top educators of students with special needs.

Although being recognized by a congressional host committee that included, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, was an honor, Baldwin said just being able to work with the students brings her so much joy.

"It's a career I would choose again," said the 55-year-old San Bernardino County school teacher. "I just love it."

Baldwin began teaching hearing-impaired preschoolers when she was 23. When school districts began integrating students with disabilities into regular education classrooms in the 1990s, Baldwin made sure hearing-impaired students were also given this opportunity. But with the change, it was apparent that students needed support to maintain the pace of a regular curriculum and teachers needed training on how to work with hearing-impaired students in the classroom.

Baldwin took over that role and for the last nine years has been working as an itinerant teacher, going from school to school to tutor and coach students, their classmates and teachers.

Sue Hamlin, who has worked with Baldwin and now supervises her, said she has a special gift for working with the hearing impaired and she shares that gift with all.

"She's just a good-hearted teacher," Hamlin said. "If I had (deaf) kids, I'd want her working with mine."

Baldwin said it can be tricky educating the hearing-impaired. She provides tips to teachers to help with the task. One tip she often gives is to limit usage of multiple-meaning words. And although she understands it can be difficult, it is necessary because hearing-impaired students are very literal with interpretation.

For example, she said, the students know one definition for the word "break."

"So when a teacher says 'let's take a break,' they don't know what that means," Baldwin said. "It really makes you look at language in a different way."

She also has to remind teachers to make sure the students sit in the front of the classroom. She tells teachers not to talk while writing on the chalk or white boards and, instead of clapping their hands to get students' attention, perhaps flip the light switch on and off.

Baldwin also tells teachers not to take comments personally. Baldwin said hearing-impaired people are very visual and when they try to communicate, it may not sound right to a regular hearing person.

"A hearing-impaired person might say to someone 'Those shoes don't match with those pants.' They don't meant to be critical, they are just trying to be observant," she said.

Baldwin says these are just some of the things that keep her job fun.

"They keep me laughing," she said.

Reach Cadonna Peyton at (909) 806-3053 or


Cindy Baldwin

Has been teaching deaf and hearing-impaired students for San Bernardino County schools for 32 years.

• 55 years old.

• San Bernardino resident.

• In April, she was one of three teachers across the nation recognized by the Commonwealth Academy for her work with children with learning disabilities.

"It's a career I would choose again. I just love it."

©2003 Belo Interactive Inc.