After a long and distinguished career, Catherine Healey is to retire this December from teaching English at St. Johnís School for the Deaf in Boston Spa. Catherineís work at the School began in September 1981 and, within these twenty-seven years, many children who have been through the school have benefited enormously from her exceptional teaching skills.
Teachers, students and visitors alike have learned a great deal from Catherineís classroom practice, and have acknowledged her expertise. One of the first acknowledgements of this was winning the Eichholz Prize in 1985. Catherine is the only teacher working at St. Johnís to ever achieve this honour.
Over the years Catherineís endeavours have not been restricted to St Johnís, as her work with the deaf has achieved a great deal worldwide. This began as early as 1985 when she took a group of year 7 and 8 pupils to the Instituut voor Doven (IVD) in the Netherlands. Their role was to demonstrate the Maternal Reflective Method in English to students on the international course, then run by the school.
This early collaboration with IVD led on to two further projects working with teachers in training from Tanzania (1990) and Vietnam (1995). Both of these projects involved supporting the teachers on a placement at St Johnís and, more recently, Catherine spent ten days in Vietnam, again developing the use of the MRM. In 2000 Catherine joined the Comenius Project, working with their Pro-Read project for three years, and in 2005 Catherine had the privilege of presenting at the International Conference in Maastricht, the title of her paper being Integrating Profoundly Deaf Teenagers into College.
Catherine has a long association with Kenya which began in 1993 when she first trained teachers there. Since then, she has tirelessly supported and fundraised for Kerugoya School for the Deaf, forging links between them and St Johnís. The Millenium Project raised money for two poor deaf boys, enabling them to attend secondary school in Kenya. Between 1999 and 2001 Catherine also tutored Kerugoyaís first Birmingham University graduate and whilst on one of her many visits to Kenya, Catherine climbed Mount Kenya - a huge achievement as it is around 17,000 feet above sea level!
Catherineís long-standing work in teacher training has culminated in her role as a regional tutor with the University of Birmingham working with teachers on the B.Phil/Post-graduate diploma course leading to the mandatory TOD qualification.
St Johnís and Catherine will likely miss one another! Colleagues at St Johnís will remember Catherineís unfailing faith in the potential of her pupils and the near boundless energy that enabled her to fulfil so many roles. Fortunately Catherine hopes to continue working with the deaf in a broader context and is presently working on her signing skills beyond CACDP level 2.
The staff at St. Johnís will be joined by pupils and colleagues from wider deaf circles around the world in wishing Catherine a long, happy and healthy retirement.