5-26-2017 – Norco – Meet Linda Mitchell and Marja Adams! They are Deaf/Hard of Hearing Itinerant Teachers.
They were hired on to the Corona-Norco Unified School District team in 1982.
The two friends met when they were students at California State University, Northridge. Linda was on the search for a roommate to share an apartment near campus. Marja came across the post ad on a bulletin board.
“I saw the ad and called her,” said Marja, “It turned out we were both deaf education majors! We instantly became roommates and friends.”
Linda never imagined they would go on to work together.
“When Marja and I first met, it never occurred to me to think so far into the future to consider that we might someday be able to work together after graduation,” said Linda, “At the time, we were so busy with school and our weekend jobs that just getting through school was sufficient.”
Linda graduated a semester earlier than Marja and returned home to work at Disneyland. When Marja graduated 6-months later, the positions in the Corona-Norco Unified School District were available.
“Marja had applied and been offered a classroom position. There was also an itinerant position available,” said Linda, “My first response when she called excitedly to inform me of the opening was ‘Where is Corona?'”
Both have worked as Itinerant Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) Teachers; Linda for 35-years and Marja for 11-years.
“As the DHH Itinerant, I was hired to provide support to mainstreamed DHH students attending schools throughout the district while Marja provided specialized language instruction to students with more significant DHH needs within the newly formed DHH classes located at Norco Elementary,” said Linda, “Coming in together and knowing each other, we were able to establish one of the few Total Communication Programs that to this day still utilizes Signing Exact English (SEE) along with Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) to support English language development.”
The duo will end their journey and retire this summer.
Marja attended Citrus College (CC) in Azusa, CA, California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and CSUN.
Marja enrolled in a sign language class and fell in love. It was then that she decided to pursue a career in teaching.
“Deaf people are fascinating to me. They are so expressive!,” said Marja, “I decided I wanted to work with deaf children at that time. I am a naturally patient person which is a good quality to have as a teacher and working with deaf children, I could continue to use sign language.”
After graduating from CSUN, Marja moved back home with her parents in Monrovia, CA.
“My brother, who was teaching Radio Broadcasting at La Verne College at the time, met the Special Education Director from CNUSD,” said Marja, “He mentioned to the director that I had just graduated with my Master’s in Deaf Education and was looking for a job.”
At the time, CNUSD was starting up their Special Education Program. Her brother informed her about a job in the city of Norco.
“I had never heard of Norco or Corona before!,” she said, “I told Linda and we applied for the positions. Linda got the DHH itinerant position and I got the DHH classroom [position] at Norco Elementary.”
After being hired, Marja moved with Linda to Anaheim.
“I event met my husband, Keith, at Norco Elementary!,” said Marja.
In 1989, Marja resigned to stay home and raise her 3 children. During that time, she worked part-time for the district, substitute teaching for the DHH classes at Norco Elementary and going to the homes of deaf children to work with their families.
“I went back to work full-time in 2006, returning to Norco Elementary in the deaf class,” she said, “Because the district was growing, there was a need for another Itinerant Teacher so Linda and I became a team as DHH Itinerants from 2007 until the present.”
Marja’s favorite aspect of being a teacher was decorating the classroom.
“I especially loved the door decorating contests at Norco El,” she said, “It was so much fun getting the kids involved with that.”
Marja also loves interacting with her students; working with them one-on-one or in a small groups because it allows her the opportunity to get to know her students well.
Her teaching philosophy is about making teaching fun.
“When I’m excited about my lesson, it’s contagious and the kids enjoy it and learn more too,” said Marja.
A few words of encouragement from Marja:
“Try not to stress about the little things even though they may seem big at the moment.”
On her spare time, Marja enjoys quilting and decorating her house.
“It has been a pleasure working with Linda,” said Marja, “It’s fun having so much in common and being able to laugh and help each other in our teaching.”
Linda attended California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) for a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Multisubject Credential in Elementary Education. She then went on to earn a Masters’ degree in Deaf Education and a Special Education Communication Handicapped Credential from California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
Linda had initially enrolled in the teaching program at CSUF with only a general idea of wanting to work with children and creating fun ‘units’ that would excite them to learn new things about the world around them.
A babysitting gig sparked a passion for learning about hearing loss and sign language.
“A semester into the program at CSUF, however, a girlfriend asked me to cover a babysitting appointment that she worked regularly,” said Linda, “I agreed to help, and that night met two young boys who happened to be deaf. The mother taught me three signs; stop, sleep, and wash, and with some written communication we made it through the evening successfully.”
She immediately signed up for a Signing Exact English class at CSUF and began visiting the DHH program the two boys were enrolled in.
For Linda, her favorite part of teaching are the moments when a student grasps a new concept or learns a new fact that truly excites them. As an Itinerant teacher, she enjoys following her students year after year and having the opportunity to watch them grow up.
“My teaching philosophy is to provide every support available to allow my students to develop into successful adults in spite of hearing loss,” said Linda.
A typical day for Linda begins at a school site and often ends at the DHH Office at Auburndale Intermediate.
“I generally visit between five and eight school sites per day, checking HAT technology, providing batteries, pulling students to work on language, vocabulary and/or self-advocacy skills,” said Linda, “And consulting with teachers or preparing for/participating in IEP meetings.”
She utilizes office time to prepare for meetings, gather student materials for the following days, maintain equipment inventory, and complete reports.
“The Itinerant position can be solitary as compared to a classroom teacher,” said Linda, “However, it also offers the opportunity to get to know and create friendships with teachers at multiple school sites, a definite perk!”
Linda’s favorite hobby is searching for new places to have High Tea and collect antique tea strainers from around the world.
“Since I will be retiring July 1st, my immediate pre-retirement goal is to do everything I can to provide the smoothest transition possible for the amazing new young DHH teachers coming in to carry on the CNUSD DHH Itinerant program,” she said.
Her post-retirement goals include sleeping in past 5:30 a.m., spending time with her family and later investigating the possibility of helping students aging out of the foster-care system.
“Working with Marja has been the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for,” said Linda, “Being hired together as a team was more than either of us could have hoped for. Then later, when she returned to work after her children were grown, and we were able to create an Itinerant Team, our careers seemed to have come full circle. Retiring at the same time seems only appropriate and a lot of fun!”
A Message from Linda:
“For my students, you are amazing! Accept challenges. Prevail or try again. You can do anything you put your mind to.
For the teachers: Thank you so much for all of your support. For reminding students to use their hearing aids, for being forgiving when I arrive unannounced to pull your student, for coming to IEP meetings before or after school. I really appreciate all of you!
For school clerks/secretaries, for all of the times, you found a space on campus for me to work, greeted me when I came in (so I didn’t feel like a ‘ghost’ on campus), offered me a goodie on Staff Appreciation days.
For Administrators: for all your support in too many ways to mention. Thank you!!
This is an amazing district. I am so glad to be a part of it.”