Alysha Allen is a teacher for the last 3 years at Brimsdown Primary School in Enfield, north London. It is a mainstream school with a hearing-impaired resource base (known as the HIRBiE) team. Here, they teach the students and the staff how to sign in British Sign Language (BSL) and conduct signing workshops for staff and family members.
Allen was diagnosed profoundly deaf since she was a child but that did not stop her from being contagiously positive and a brilliant teacher. She teaches the class using sign language and lip-reading.
Allen tells The Guardian, “At the beginning, I was panicking because there were so many pupils, and I was worried I’d never learn all their names – let alone be able to read their lips. I had moments where I thought I couldn’t do it, but as I’ve gotten to know them and they’ve gotten to know me, there’s been a transformation.”
Her diligence ultimately paid off as her students are now fluent in signing, and for this, she recently received the New Teacher of the Year at the TES School Awards 2020. Additionally, she was also presented with the Special Contribution Award by the Maths Hub - a national organisation that aims to recognise excellence in maths teaching. Her reaction to receiving the award was - “It’s a bit surreal.”
She feels that with special needs education, there’s a lot of repetition, but in a mainstream school, everything moves much more quickly. She says, “I really enjoy the pace of things and the fact that every day is different.”
The Deputy Headteacher Eleanor Painter, who sent Allen’s nomination for the Maths Hub award, says, “Despite being profoundly deaf, Alysha teaches and engages an entire class of hearing children which is a remarkable achievement. The children absolutely love learning sign language and not only does this help to create a really inclusive environment at the school, but research has also shown that it can help with language and speech development, too.”
According to Allen, teaching in lockdown was challenging enough for her, but she feels proud of her class that they have been trying hard to study regardless of the circumstances. Allen teaches her students to sign names (visual representation) with respect to something about the appearance, or what one likes to do, etc.
For children who have additional needs, BSL may act as a communication tool, not just hearing-impaired but also other special needs, or those who don’t speak English as the first language.
When asked about her influence on her students, Allen says, “I want them to understand that being different is not a bad thing. I want them to grow up and leave school being good citizens with good moral compasses.”
With that beautiful thought and a resilient heart, Alysha Allen teaches on, becoming an inspiration to many.
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