Extra special education arrives in San Miguel

By Robin Loving Rowland

Did you know that San Miguel de Allende has the only special education school for deaf youngsters in the state? The school opened in September in response to requests from parents of deaf students. There are no publicly funded schools for deaf children in the State of Guanajuato.

Escuela de Educación Especial de San Miguel de Allende, AC, opened its doors in September 2012 to assist these students. The education programs at the school are tailored to fit the unique learning strengths and needs of students with different abilities. A major goal is to teach the skills and knowledge needed to be as independent as possible.

The Escuela de Educación Especial at Umarán 107 in Centro currently has 14 deaf students aged 3 to 31 who are being taught with special tools and lots of hand-on activities such as computer training, cooking, sewing, dance, gardening, and glass and mask designing. Their slogan is Sí, Se Puede (Yes, You Can!). The school focuses on education, life skills, and job preparedness through formal education as well as monthly field trips and activities as diverse as yoga, horseback riding, craft workshops, volunteering and cultural activities. All of these activities are provided and supported by volunteers, local organizations and businesses to help foster the students’ self-assurance and independence.

The school opened with six students. They enjoy a small class size with three special education teachers qualified in sign language. After regular classes for deaf students are finished, a classroom containing computers and other special teaching equipment is utilized by a blind teacher who conducts computer and Braille instruction for blind persons. He is very inspirational, being a marathon runner!

“We are all dedicated to providing the best educational practices in language and communication through a curriculum approved by the Secretary of Public Education in sign language and Spanish,” said John Doherty, the founding president. “The purpose of the school is to encourage and support student choices and self-determination to ensure that their post-educational experiences are successful.”

The school will offer vocational training to assist older students in gaining employment. Students will receive on-the-job training from businesses in the community in glass engraving, candle-making, baking, cooking, jewelry-making and design, computing and others.

“About a quarter of our employees produce our outstanding handcrafted products despite their physical challenges,” said Charlie Hall, owner of Rose Ann Hall Designs, a local glass-engraving and candle-making factory. “And, we will hire more youngsters when we can and as they become available after training such as the Escuela de Educación Especial is offering.”

On the EEE board are Accountant Liliana Martínez, Hotelier Alicia Franyutti, Physician Walter Scott, Minister Farley Wheelwright, Retailer Herb Tolpen, Government Administrator Irene de León, Banker Sharon Doherty, Special Educator Ron Felton, and Lawyer Remedios Hernández, in addition to President John Doherty, a banker and civic leader from Canada who has achieved notable civic successes in Canada, the US and Mexico.

“We’ve had a great first year building infrastructure with our wonderful board, and with our continued growth it is now necessary to further develop our great teachers and to consider hiring a fulltime director,” said Vice President Ron Felton.

The school also needs, and is establishing, a dedicated library with special materials. The library is being named in honor of Luisa Velte, who has been supporting children’s education and health programs in San Miguel for decades.

The school is a registered nonprofit in Mexico that offers deductions for US donations.

“We have a wonderful opportunity to help these youngsters, and it is so important that we develop this school properly,” said President John Doherty. “This is a real school run by a Mexican staff for Mexican kids. With a little help, we will ensure its success.”

The students have renewed hope now that they have a school that will provide a good education and also caters to their abilities. They aspire to be carpenters, health professionals, painters, cosmetologists, teachers, and clothing designers. Some of the youngsters are candidates for improved digital hearing aids, which for a set, costs around US$2,000, and all are eager to further develop their sign language and communication skills. Ericka, one of the older students, is so good that she is already being trained as a teacher’s assistant, furthering her academic goals as well as saving a little money for her future.

A trip to the school offers the opportunity to feel the palpable enthusiasm, the excitement of a thoroughly animated group, the seriousness of student, faculty, and administrative intentions, and the reticence of dreams not yet bold enough for expression. Make an appointment today to visit the school and meet Juanita, AdÁn, Max, Rafael, Fernando, Azucena, Juan, Gaby, Dylan and all the other students whose future looks brighter with each passing day.

Call today for more information. Founder and Board President John Doherty may be reached at 152-0893 locally or either 604/985-3695 or 250/999-9297 (US/Canada). The school’s treasurer, Liliana MartÍnez, may be reached at 154-6771. For general information, you may write to info@eeesma.com and visit www.eeesma.com.

Sí, se puede! Yes, you can!


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