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Iowa School for the Deaf helping its students with real life

By MAGGIE O'BRIENJune 2, 2019

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Chris Nipper was in third grade when he realized his social studies teacher was deaf. As a hearing-impaired kid himself, it had an impact.

“She performed her awesome teaching style to our class, which was colorful and understandable through American Sign Language, her facial expression, and body language,” he told The Daily Nonpareil. “She brought this class a very interesting and enjoyable subject and was very strict and respectful teacher. One day, she caught me on her attention stated that “You would be a great teacher!”

Nipper is finishing up his first year at Iowa School For the Deaf as a work experience coordinator. Through the Post-Senior Learning for Ultimate Success Transition Program — also known as 4-PLUS, he helps hearing and visually-impaired students between the ages of 18 and 21 learn how to deal with real-world life experiences and problems. He also works with employers and corporations in Council Bluffs and Omaha.

“It’s a real fun and challenging experience for me. For instance, when meeting an employer, at a corporation store, they are stunned that I shared my information by texting on pager and gave my business card,” Nipper said. “We began to develop a better partnership which led for our students’ opportunity to work as a part-time employee. This brings a better image for our school.”

Nipper, 53, grew up in Tennessee. He communicated through sign language, and he could also speak. He taught friends how to sign. There were struggles, especially as he entered adulthood. Few people knew sign language and modern communication devices, like cell phones weren’t yet available. He remembers those hardships today as he works with students, to keep them motivated and moving toward their goals.

“One of their biggest challenges is transitions programming and progressing from student to independent adult. This would help students who need a bit more time facing real-world experiences,” Nipper said. “I help them find jobs and provides employment support.”

ISD teachers and staff hold mock interviews with students on campus and teach them how to create and update their resumes as they build new skills. When students need more assistance in employment, Nipper said, he acts as a job coach and continues to help provide guidance until the can live and work independently.

“The best part about teaching my students is showing that they are capable of functioning in the world of work with their great abilities, he said. “I also shared my rich knowledge, experiences, and skills as a deaf person and a deaf role model to all of my pupils and players. In the classroom, I actually took off my shoes in front of my students. I asked them, ‘Have you been thinking about filling in my shoes someday?’”

He is eager to watch his students’ reactions when they receive their first paycheck and reassure them that the best is yet to come.

“They might say, ‘Oh, I see that my amount of paycheck that might not match what I dream about my future’ (but) I also want to prove them how realize they know about being serious enough to earn more income to meet their reality dreams. As students experience real-world challenges, they begin to adapt,” Nipper said.

Nipper graduated from the Tennessee School for the Deaf in 1985, and studied physical Education and secondary Education at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He has earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in special education, specializing in deaf education.

He and his wife Jodyann and have two teenagers — Travin, 15, and Kalista, 13.

“My teaching experiences are awesome and excellent in every classroom I taught,” Nipper said. “My role model as a deaf educator has greatly influenced to my deaf and hard of hearing pupils becoming a life-long independent learners and well-represented deaf/hard of hearing citizens in our society.”

His work is impacting the Bluffs community, both hearing and hearing-impaired, he said, “by developing a great partnership of 4 PLUS transition program and the corporations. This gives a better image of our program showing and helping the corporations’ success of business growth.”

“For me and the employers/corporations, we face our own challenges in communication, we all are abide to learn and deal with this,” he said.

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, http://www.nonpareilonline.com

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