New Deaf Center Director Focuses on Personal Student Success

FALMOUTH — The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will welcome Karen Hopkins as its new executive director on January 1.

Karen Hopkins Courtesy/Karen Hopkins

It is truly an honor for me to lead the MECDHH in his next chapter,” Hopkins said in an email to The Forecaster. “I will give everything I have to ensure deaf and hearing-impaired children have every opportunity to to reach their personal success.”

Hopkin’s passion stems from her own experiences growing up in Millinocket as the only deaf child in her family and school. She didn’t have a chance to meet another deaf person until she set foot on the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the of the world only university for the deaf, at the age of 17.

“After graduating, I knew I had to come home to make a difference for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families,” Hopkins said.

She has worked at the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Governor Baxter School for the Deaf for 25 years.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic posed new challenges, Hopkins said the agency adapted immediately.

“Our organization jumped into the virtual world in a a week’s time,” Hopkins said. “My staff are used to being statewide anyway, a lot of the work we do is virtual. We have connected with schools in every district of the state of Melder and sent a notification saying, “We are here to you and we will continue to meet the students’ Needs.’”

Hopkins recently received the federal grant from the Maine Health Services and Resources Administration, which provides funds to provide training, resources and parent-parenting support for families with deaf children from birth, according to Hopkins. It also offers the opportunity parents to meet other deaf adults.

The center, based at Governor Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth Island, is a statewide agency funded by the Department of Education as the referral agency in Maine serving people who are deaf and hard of hearing, from infants to 21 years old. old young adults.

Leslie Gil, assistant teacher for the deaf, works with a preschool student on Mackworth Island. Courtesy/Karen Hopkins

The Governor Baxter School for the Deaf now houses a preschool on Mackworth Island, but its services extend to Portland Public Schools for grades K-12.

The agency’s statewide Department of Educational Services offers two programs, the Early Childhood and Family Services Program and the Public School Outreach Program.

Amber Woodcock of Gardiner sent her deaf son to preschool on Mackworth Island for 3½ years and continues to use the centre’s public school early childhood and family services and outreach programs , because her child is now in second grade. Woodcock said her son was born with mild hearing loss, but when he was 3 they discovered it had progressed and he would eventually go deaf.

“I would have been lost without MECDHH,” Woodcock said. “I went the day after her date when we found out and spoke to Karen Hopkins and one of the audioloimstitches the low. They helped I go through all the things I had to deal with as a parent in order to help my child.

Liberty Herweh, an eighth-grade student at Près Isle, has been using the center’s services since fifth grade. Before the pandemic, a regional teacher of the deaf for MECDHH came to school with Herweh every week. The teacher has been helping Herweh transition between different classes and different schools since fifth grade. Now that Herweh’s school is completely isolated, she is meeting with virtually all of her teachers.

Herweh said the most valuable part about it for her is “hbe someone who is your teacher, but also your friend. So you’re not uncomfortable talking if you’re having trouble with a teacher or having trouble hearing quieter friends. Occasionally his really difficult to have this conversation with an adult.

Herweh has two cochlear implants which she received at ages 5 and 8. They granted him a partial hearing and allowed him to communicate through spoken language. However, since meeting deaf friends through the center, she is determined to learn sign language.

“We’ve lived in four different states since she had a hearing loss and Maine does, by far, the most amazing job working with families,” said Dixie Herweh, Liberty’s mother. “We are here, literally at the top of Maine, and yet she is still get exactly what she needs.

Michael A. May