Aimee's Story: Becoming Ireland's First Deaf Primary Teachers Using Irish Sign Language

In 2019, four students began their journey at DCU to become the first Deaf primary school teachers using Irish Sign Language (ISL) in Ireland. Now in the third year of her studies on the Bachelor of Education – Irish Sign Language Pathway, Aimee Ennis McLoughlin, describes her journey so far and how her scholarship supported by Folens and CIDP has helped with her studies.

“I was born profoundly deaf, and I come from a family of six, five of whom are deaf, including myself, my parents and my two siblings, and one hearing sibling. I went to a mainstream school for primary education and later went to St Mary’s School for the Deaf, now called Holy Family School for the Deaf for secondary school education. I have always wanted to become a teacher from the age of four, as I have always loved school and believed in helping others, particularly deaf children.

Growing up, I was privileged to have an excellent education which ultimately led to where I am today. It did not come without struggles, especially in primary school. As the only deaf student in a class with 30 other students, I needed extra help. The school provided me with an SNA and resource teacher and I always sat at the front beside the teacher’s table, which was great, but I often felt that I was different because I was the only one who needed an SNA, and needed to sit beside the teacher. I loved going to mainstream school because I had so many opportunities to grow as an individual and explore different things such as learning French, playing the tin whistle, participating in dancing, and a range of sports.

Following in the footsteps of my family, I went to a deaf school for my secondary education. Being in a deaf school allowed me to be myself and to learn through my first language. It was great to have peers who were deaf because we all had the same commonality – deafness. It was great to have teachers who could communicate with us through sign language. However, there is a big gap in deaf teachers as there are just simply not enough. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a teacher.

Throughout my time in secondary school, I have always wondered if there would be a course where deaf people could become teachers. Unfortunately, when I left school, there were no primary teaching degrees with an exemption from Irish available and I have never studied Irish. I had begun an Arts degree in Maynooth University when I heard about the Bachelor of Education in ISL and I just knew I had to try to pursue my dream course. Luckily, I got accepted into DCU and it has been the best decision I have ever made. Now that I am in my third year, I’m one step closer to becoming a primary school teacher. I believe that children from different backgrounds, children with disabilities and children in general, have the right to a good education. I had an excellent education, and I want to give that to my future students.

Having online lectures for a large part of my first two years was a struggle at times, but fortunately, I was able to see some of my peers when we did our second-year placement together in the same school. DCU has always been brilliant in ensuring that we were getting the best education while working remotely. They made every effort to make everything accessible, especially recording the lectures and providing us with lecture notes beforehand.

There are many good things about the course, but school placement has been my favourite part by far. I had the opportunity to do my school placement in Holy Family School for the Deaf, and I had an excellent experience teaching there. School placement is the most challenging part of the course, but it is so rewarding when the children ask me to repeat the same lessons just because they loved it. The children that I have worked with have made my experience all the more enjoyable. Being on school placement gives me the chance to improve my teaching skills, put the teaching methodologies into practice and grow as a student-teacher.

 

“The scholarship has helped me tremendously in ways that I cannot explain. I will forever be grateful because the scholarship allows me to achieve my lifelong dream of becoming a deaf teacher.”

 

This summer I have fulfilled another dream of mine by becoming a mother and the scholarship now holds even more significance for me. Now as a parent, I am more determined than ever to help deaf children to receive the education that they deserve. Now at a time when I need it most, this scholarship will help me financially; it will also help to motivate me to continue the course and establish a promising career that is of utmost importance to me. There are many people to thank for all their support throughout my studies in DCU: Dr Elizabeth Mathews, CIDP, Folens, Senan Dunne, Joe Travers, my sign language interpreters, my lecturers and many more. My scholarship has had a substantial positive impact on my life. The support offered by DCU is exceptional, and I am so glad to be a student here. The University has a considerable emphasis on equality and providing students with access to equal opportunities, and that is one of the things that I admire most about DCU.

After I graduate, I hope to teach in Holy Family School for the Deaf and to eventually become a principal of the school. As I advance in my teaching journey, I look forward to building relationships with my students, expressing my passion for teaching, and having the opportunity to brighten the children’s days. I also look forward to facing more challenges that come with teaching because it will develop and improve my skills and help me grow as a teacher.”