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Teacher awarded for work with hard of hearing

December 05, 2017

​Ben Bengtson / North Shore News

Student Shea Jackson poses with his teacher Rhena Tevendale as she holds her recently received Educator of the Year award from the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Association of Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for her many years of service in the North Vancouver school district and elsewhere. photo Mike Wakefield, North Shore News

A North Vancouver resident and longtime educator of students who are deaf or hard of hearing has been recognized for her years of service.

Rhena Tevendale received the I.D.E.A award -- Inspirational Deaf Educator Award -- from the provincial chapter of the Canadian Association of Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in late October.

“I was very humbled and very honoured to be recognized,” Tevendale recently told the North Shore News. “It’s nice to be acknowledged.”

As an itinerant hearing resource teacher, Tevendale goes to different schools in the North Vancouver school district each week to assist hard of hearing students.

“Because I work with kids from kindergarten through to Grade 12 the diversity is fantastic,” she said. “In that relationship you really get to know your students and your families extremely well. You sense the growth, and the development, and independence and kids learning how to become strong self-advocates.”

Tevendale helps hard- of-hearing youth with everything from their own personal auditory goals, sign language, speech, self-advocacy, everyday schoolwork, and technology such as hearing aids.

She also provides a consultative role to the district and helps in training teachers on classroom adaptations that can help hard of hearing or deaf students.

“Even just the visual space -- making sure my students are seated closer or on one side of the room versus the other side of the room,” she said.

Tevendale’s career started in the mid 1980s when she worked as an educational interpreter for the North Vancouver school district, a role she held for 10 years.

She entered a teaching program at SFU in 1993 and then worked as a classroom teacher for many years.

But her passion for student accessibility never wavered.

“I’m just part of the team, and we all work together to build awareness for these students who have very unique needs in an educational setting and my role is to facilitate that and help teachers understand and help peers understand,” she said.

Asked why she thinks she recieved this year’s I.D.E.A. award she said a lot of it might have to do with her advocacy work.

In addition to her direct work with students, Tevendale is a past president of the CAEDHH-BC and has devoted lots of time to advocating for causes at the provincial and national level that are important for deaf and hard of hearing students, such as classroom acoustical standards.

Acoustical classroom and school design, she said, is an under-the-radar topic but creating appropriate classroom noise levels is essential for establishing a proper learning environment for hard of hearing students. “I’m passionate about accessibility for all students,” she said.

And she’s passionate about the profession overall.

“I think being a teacher of the deaf is a wonderful field, and there’s a critical shortage across Canada right now of teachers of the deaf and that’s a huge problem because kids with hearing loss really need people to teach who understand their unique technology that’s required,” she said.