Teacher of the Deaf Sally Pape had 25 years’ experience in her field and a desire to keep pace with the rapidly evolving field of hearing loss when she embarked on a NextSense Institute Master of Disability Studies degree. The result? A new appreciation for the importance of individualised support and new strategies to make her practice even better.
Assistant Principal—Hearing at Campbelltown East Public School, Sally Pape has been a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) for an impressive 25 years. In that time, there have been major shifts in thinking, technology and educational approaches, so in the spirit of lifelong learning, Sally opened the books again to make sure she could evolve with her students needs and the changing world they were in.
After several years of encouraging teachers in her team to complete the NextSense Institute Master of Disability Studies, and supervising students during their placement, Sally decided the course would be a great fit for her too.
Delivered in partnership with Macquarie University, the Master of Disability Studies offers students the opportunity to learn from leading researchers in the field and develop the latest knowledge and skills necessary to meet the needs of learners with sensory disability.
Having already completed her ToD studies more than 20 years ago, Sally embarked on the Master of Disability Studies (with a specialisation in sensory disability), in 2017 to refresh and enhance her knowledge to enable her to better support her students and team.
I felt I needed to do some refresher training because as an assistant principal leading a team of teachers, I have to be current in my understanding of audiology and all of the current research around speech and language.
She chose to specialise in sensory disability as most of the children on her personal caseload have additional disability and use augmentative communication strategies and technology.
Since graduating in 2019, Sally says the course has continued to provide benefits, both for her individually and for her team.
‘All the information is now front of mind, and I have a greater understanding of the current research and understanding around the needs of deaf children,’ she says.
‘I now work better with my team of ToDs because I can answer all their questions.’
The flexibility of online delivery of the course also enabled her to balance her studies with work and her busy lifestyle.
Studying remotely really worked for me because I was juggling mothering and working full time. It was more flexible.
Evolve your knowledge with the sector
Sally explains that when she first started working as a ToD, the majority of her students were Auslan users.
‘I wasn't up to date with a lot of the tech because back then I didn't support any kids that were using assistive technology like roger pens. I had previously supported some hearing aid users, but I had very few kids who were cochlear implant users.’
Sally’s studies with NextSense Institute explored these new technologies and exposed her to the latest research on their application and how to support her students in using them.
In particular, she was interested in building her knowledge of audiology and the science around hearing loss.
‘I loved doing the audiology courses and all the science in it. There were two subjects I did around this—one that was compulsory, and then I chose to do the advanced educational audiology subject,’ she says.
Throughout her decades of experience, Sally has learnt that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting children with hearing and vision loss. She says that supporting positive outcomes is rooted in thinking about the unique needs of the child and the family.
It’s all about building a team around the child and I try to embed that within the team all the time. The Masters course gives you the understanding that it has to be about the individual needs of the of the child, because no two deaf children are the same. You can have the same loss and very different outcomes.
Sally excelled in the course, receiving an excellent grade point average of 6.7. She was one of six NextSense graduates from the class of 2019 who were awarded Macquarie University Award for Academic Excellence.
Take your career to the next level
Do you want to take your career supporting children and adults with hearing and vision loss to the next level? Consider embarking on a Masters of Disability Studies through NextSense Institute.
We have the flexibility to meet your personal and financial needs, with options to complete the course full- or part-time, and funding is available through Commonwealth Supported Places.