West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind

August 22, 2017





DR. KELLER: Hi, I'm Dr. Martin Keller, Jr. I'm the Superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in beautiful Romney.


This building, this house, was first established in 1845 by the Romney Literary Society. Then in 1870, they decided to give it to the state. This place then became a residential school and has been that way since. It will soon be the 150th year anniversary in 2020. We have 80 acres and a barn.


Come on inside. 


We have pictures of all the superintendents. This is the first superintendent, H.H. Hollister. It is said that he was partially blind. He wanted for the school to only serve the blind, but the state wanted it to serve both deaf and blind. He agreed to it, establishing programs for both groups.


During Christmas, we host events here. So we keep those. I've been here for two years now. I'm so impressed by the people and the community. They are warm, friendly, and very supportive of the school for both deaf and blind students. Many people here know how to sign. When you go into food stores or restaurants, many of them can sign. It's nice.


[RUBY] My name is Ruby Losh. Before I was married, it was Ennis. I graduated here 1994. Some people don't realize there is a deaf school in West Virginia. Virginia used to be one state with West Virginia combined in it. But in 1860, it was split up. Here at West Virginia, our school is somewhat “hidden." Many people thought this school was closed down or do not even realize there is a school here. But we've been here for a long time.


[DONNA] My name is Donna Williams. I'm the secretary of WVAD (West Virginia Association of the Deaf). I'm also the West Virginia LEAD-K point of contact. West Virginia -- I love it, I love the beauty. The cost of living is cheap, when you compare it with Maryland or the DC area where I'm from.


[DR. KELLER] Ready for a campus tour? WVSDB now has 125 students. We have three schools. This one is the deaf school. Their mascot is lions.


[KRYSTAL] I’m Krystal Dosch. I work here at WVSDB as a science teacher. It is my fifth year working here. What is unique about West Virginia is the beautiful scenery, the mountains, it is very beautiful. What is special about this school? It is a small school and you can interact with the staff and students. A cool thing about the school is that there is still a lot of historical significance. You can still see old things, such as a big, ancient furnace, a former hospital for soldiers, we have many different things on campus that is really awesome and you can explore. It's really cool.


[MIRIAH] My name is Miriah. I'm in the 6th grade.


[FAITH] My name is Faith. I'm in the 7th grade.


[MIRIAH] I want to go to college when I'm older. I'm not sure which one.


[FAITH] I'd rather, when I'm done here, to move to college and get a job. I'm not sure which job yet, I haven't decided.


[SCOTT] Hi, I'm Scott. I work here as a math teacher. I also am a STEM teacher.


[JOSHUA] My name is Joshua Simmons. 




It's geometry. It's almost like Kings Dominion -- you know with the rollercoasters. I built it like they do.


[SCOTT] STEM -- that's short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.


This lesson is extremely beneficial because some students don't know how to use tools, such as a power drill like this. Or this pilers. It is a good opportunity for them to learn how to use their hands and to deal with pinches, this experience is good for them. Their learning has really benefited them. Hands-on experience is important.


[DANI] My name is Dani Richardson. I'm a 5th grade teacher here and it will be my 6th year this fall. I graduated here in 2002. We're hidden. Many people don't know where this place is. Actually, most people don't even realize West Virginia has a deaf school. They say, "oh really?" "I didn't know!"


Yes, surprise!


We've got beautiful mountains. In the fall, it is amazing with the different colors, it is very beautiful.


It is also a nice place to retire. It is calm and your mind doesn't have to spin by going to many different places. It is very quiet.


[DR. KELLER] We've just discussed and agreed on a new tagline: ACT. Achieve. Challenge. Thrive. ACT. Those buildings are dorms for middle school and high school students. Both deaf and blind students share the dorms. It's nice, this started around four years ago. Blind students now can sign. It's nice for myself to have direct communication with them instead of using an interpreter.


This is the gym. The pool is over here.


Hi, this place is interesting and a part of WVSDB's intrigue. The blind school offers an unique class: Radio Broadcasting. Our students who want to work in this field in the future can take this class. The station is 104.1 FM. They play country music and make some news announcements. We own a tower -- actually we lease a tower. It's nice and close by. Our teacher is responsible to check on it and make sure everyting is okay.


This building is the blind school. Some people call it the Brannon building.


[CORY, VIA INTERPRETER] I’m Cory Proctor and I'm in the 11th grade.


[CALEB, VIA INTERPRETER] My name is Caleb Dawson, I'm also in the 11th grade.


[EMILY, VIA INTERPRETER] My name is Emily Plummley, in the 11th grade.


[CORY] I think learning in a small environment is better for me. Because you can meet with teachers and interact with them more than if you were in a public or private school.


[CALEB] I use an iPad. I feel that this is a lot easier to use.


[EMILY] I like it when there's not a lot of people here because when traveling, with my vision issues, sometimes I can't see where I am going and I could bump into people in a public school, but here, I do fine and can walk around easily.


[MEGAN, VIA INTERPRETER] My name is Megan Hoover. It is now my fourth year here at WVSDB. I love my kids here. The classes are small so I feel like they are my kids. I'm thinking about my two graduates and I'm crying because they are like my daughters.


[CLASSROOM TEACHER, VIA INTERPRETER] This smells like clay. Yours smells like old dirt.


[BLIND STUDENT] Wait, how do you spell...S-M-E-L-L




[DONNA, VIA INTERPRETER] My name is Donna Brown. I'm the Technology Integration Specialist for the blind school. It is now my 34th year working here at WVSDB. I try to encourage our students to think about all of their options. There are a lot of jobs with technology available for blind people. If your vision is low or if you are blind, sometimes they can be travel agents. Sometimes they can be receptionists for hotels or whatever. With technology it's opened doors for blind or low-vision individuals.


[DR. KELLER] This is our track. It's nice. Every Saturday, the community uses this for soccer games.


[DEAF STUDENT] I’m just watching them play basketball.


[DR. KELLER] She will be like Nancy Rourke someday. She is very talented in art. Wow.


[THERESA] My name is Theresa Marie. I work as a dorm supervisor for the girls' dorm. Yes, I love West Virginia because it is a small town and a beautiful place to live.


[RONALD] My name is Ronald Epperly. I'm from here, I graduated from WVSDB in 1991. I work at the RCS now, I've been here for two years. See my sweat? I'm always doing something for the children. They come first!


[JOSHUA] My name is Joshua Liller. I work at the dorm (RCS). I graduated here in 1997. I grew up here, it is my hometown. I'm giving back to the students. I care about that.


[DR. KELLER] Hi, good morning. Today is the second annual Family and School Association (FSA) Day. I'm thrilled there's a gathering here. The goal is to have parents and the community build bonds with the school.


[KIM] My name is Kim Buckley. I've worked here for six years. I love my job. I enjoy working with the kids. My job is at the elementary deaf girls' dorm.


[CHRISTIE] Hello, my name is Christie Sevigny. This is my husband, Pierre Sevigny. He worked for a total of 44 years here.

He was my teacher and taught me woodworking. This was for three years. When I graduated… he asked me if I was accepted in Gallaudet. I told him I didn't make it.


He decided to marry me. We've been married for 43 years and we have 6 children. I really miss him.


[CANDICE] I'm Candice and in the third grade. I'm learning math: multiplication, division, subtraction, adding. Also reading.


[DOMINICE] My name is Dominice and I'm 11. I'm in the 4th grade. I'm in cheerleading and basketball.


[DR. KELLER] Know the famous quote, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do?” It is the same here. When in West Virginia, you must play cornhole. Are you up for a challenge? I'm really skilled.


[JOHN] Hello, my name is John Burdette. I'm the president with the West Virginia Association of the Deaf. I've been with WVAD since 1997 up to now. In West Virginia, there are around 200,000 deaf and hard of hearing people. I'd like to see more young Deaf people become involved with WVAD. We need them, they are our future.


[JULIE] My name is Julie Simmons. I graduated here at Romney in 1979.


[JEFFERY] Hi, this is Jeffery Simmons and I graduated here in 1979.


[JOSHUA] I'm Joshua Simmons and I'm a sophomore. A lot of my family graduated here.


[JEFFERY] This is our fourth generation of family here.


[DR. KELLER] Good evening. This is our prom, "Starry Night.” 


The students have voted. We will have two queens.


[DEAF STUDENT #1] I want to be a model, actor, and writer.


[DEAF STUDENT #2] I want to be a teacher that helps deaf kids sign better.


[DEAF STUDENT #3] I want to work in computer software, do engineering.


[DR. KELLER] It is interesting, when I came here, my job was to serve both the deaf and blind schools. I did wonder how I would achieve this. So far everything seems okay, very positive. It is now two years. My first year, I went to the blind school often and interacted with people there. I wanted for them to understand I wanted to provide equal services, that I wouldn't show any preference. I have attended the blind school's events and programs. I've learned the goalball game and went to a tournament. I've enjoyed getting to know their culture. We have the same struggles and frustrations. We have the same issues with accessibility. 


I feel that the most important highlight of the past two years is re-building relationships with the community. There is an annual Christmas parade here. When I came here, I was told the school was never involved. It was because the students were home for the weekend. But I knew it was easy to change this -- by announcing four weekends where kids would stay the weekend. The students were thrilled by this. We made our float to participate in the parade. You know, why not join in? Build community. They've really appreciated it. It's now a tradition. Nice.


There also were no basketball tournaments here -- we were only invited to other tournaments. But I knew we could start our own classic, and for two years, we've hosted the Mountain State Classic. We invite five schools and the tournament is in February. This is nice to have people come over. Students love staying the weekends. But we can't do this year-round, we only offer it four weekends per year.


This current weekend is one of them, it is nice, it's called the FSA Day weekend. We are encouraging parents to come here. Sometimes parents never have the opportunity to come here. Now there is an increasing number of parents here. It is important to show them what their children are doing.


I also want enrollment to increase in the future. We now have 125 students but I feel it can increase to the 150’s. We'll see how things go.

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