Kathy breaks the sound barrier to qualify as a teacher

Kathy Walker

Kathy Walker, 27, has overcome the learning challenges of being profoundly deaf to qualify as a maths teacher.

Kathy, 27, from Belfast in Northern Ireland, who graduates today with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Mathematics, is now working at Heathlands School in St Albans, Hertfordshire, teaching Maths and Geography to both deaf and hearing children.

Kathy came to Sussex because she felt that the University would best suit her needs and help her to realise her ambition to become a teacher. While studying she received support from a Disability Support Allowance (DSA), which funded interpreters for lectures and lessons.

But Kathy had to draw on her own personal reserves, too, to realize her dream. She says: "It was important to open people's minds to the possibility of having a deaf person teach mainstream classes of up to 30 pupils, especially where clear communication is vital. It was also important for me to stay strong throughout, to believe in myself and my own ability to do this."

Trainee teachers at Sussex spend many hours in the classroom to develop their teaching skills, and Kathy was no exception. She says: "To help with communication in the classroom, I used a British Sign Language interpreter, and even got the pupils to learn a few bits of sign language and develop their deaf awareness.  I found that the pupils I taught were much more open-minded than anyone else!"

Kathy also found support with her fellow students, as they shared the ups and downs of teaching maths. But it was her tutors who were truly inspiring. Kathy says: "Coming to Sussex was worthwhile as I came out of it with a new group of friends and a qualification that a few people would have thought that I wouldn't get. And it is all thanks to the positive thinking of the tutors at Sussex."

Kathy will be joined at Graduation by her father John.

Last updated: Wednesday, 26 January 2011