High School For The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing

Some people never forget the sounds of high school... roaring fans at sporting events, saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a class, or even the sound of lockers slamming in the hall. But what is high school like for people that have never known those sounds?

One deaf student in East Texas, Jessica Martinez, says, it's just as memorable because of what she doesn't hear. She along with 10 other teens going to Robert E. Lee are deaf.

In the past, deaf students were mainly in self contained classes, learning all of their subjects in one room with one teacher. But that is becoming a thing of the past.

"We have students at the elementary schools, at Clarkson Elementary, Moore Middle School and here. It's really a focus of ours to get them out in the mainstream as much as possible, and to give them exactly the same education that the hearing students have," says Robert E. Lee interpreter, Ginger Sanders.

Jessica's Pre-A.P English Interpreter, Ginger Sanders, has been working with the deaf for 20 years. She says these teenagers refuse to let their disability take away from having the high school experience.

"They're so involved in all the classes, in all the extra curricular activities. The students very much accept them, and they treat them just like other students. They invite them to go places, they fuss at them just like they fuss at hearing children they are upset with," says Sanders.

TISD provides the students with an interpreter for every class, and all of their extra curricular activities. They also have one self contained class period each day, where sometimes things get a little noisy.

"They speak right up they are not shy at all. If they have something to say they just raise their hand and sign it," Sanders.

Jessica says more than anything, she wants people to understand being deaf only affects her hearing, not her mind.

"I want hearing people to understand that deaf people are not dumb. That all of us are equal," Jessica says.

Born deaf, Jessica says feeling sorry for herself is not an option.

"I think positively. I have a positive attitude all the time, and I feel accepted here, with all of the teachers and the people that are here and my friends," says Jessica.

After signing sometimes four hours straight, interpreters often go home with aching arms and hand cramps. They say they'll gladly take on the discomfort for the future success of their students.

"We try to get our students ready for the real world, so when they leave high school they can confront the hearing world and deal with it and succeed," says Sanders.

Just this summer, Jessica received a cochlear implant, allowing her to hear some sound. She says her goal this year is to begin speaking.

Reporting: Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com