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Greetings from FIRST YEARS!
by Kathryn Wilson, M.A., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT (
FIRST YEARS Program Director

It is that time of year again when we reflect on the passing of summer and prepare for another school-year. It is also time for the 2nd edition of fyi. In this edition, we congratulate our 2009 graduates and welcome a new class of students who will complete the program in 2011. You will also find information about a new FIRST YEARS course, the Director's trip in March to Eastern Europe, and news about a FIRST YEARS faculty member, Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe; one of our new students, Christine Barton; and two FIRST YEARS favorites, Natalie and Rachel Skergan.

Congratulations to our 2009 graduates!
Job well done!
  • Adams, Julie - PA
  • Bellis, Elizabeth - NJ
  • Bennett, Rebecca - VA
  • Eggers, Lori - NJ
  • Ericksen, Susan - MI
  • Finnegan, Justin – NY
  • Froehlich, Kristin - VA
  • Haroian, Jennifer - MA
  • Jaramillo, Megan - SC
  • Knight-Silva, Melissa - CA
  • Loeb, Alison - NJ
  • McMillan, Amy - WA
  • Petrella, Nicole - NY
  • Tully-Clinard, Erin - WA

Welcome to our new students!
We have a new cohort of 15 students from 10 different states and 1 Canadian. This cohort began their first class with Dr. Donald Goldberg on August 25th.
  • Barton, Christine - IN
  • Breitkopf, Dara – NY
  • Cross, Pamela - MI
  • Dugas, Stephanie - LA
  • Eitemiller, Patricia - VA
  • Ferguson, Ellen – WV
  • Gryciuk, Margaret – NY
  • Kreuzer, Melissa - CA
  • Leblanc, Mélissa – Can
  • Ludwig, Debbie - OH
  • Miller, Amy – MI
  • Ranschau, Carissa – MN
  • Robinson, Leigh Ann – TX
  • Self, Catherine – LA
  • Smith, Shana – MI
  • Talamantez, Sara – CA

Announcing Our New Course – and Welcome to Our New FIRST YEARS Faculty
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
- William Arthur Ward (1921–1994)
This quote says much about our two new course authors and facilitators. In early 2009 Sherri Vernelson and Beth Walker joined our team to help develop a new FIRST YEARS course. Launched August 25th, Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention focuses on typical development, assessment and intervention in the domains of listening, language and speech and includes multiple video clips to demonstrate activities, strategies and techniques, and parent guidance. Our second-year students are clearly taking advantage of Sherri and Beth's incredible knowledge and expertise.
Sherri VernelsonSherri Vernelson, M.Ed., LSLS Cert. AVEd., has been teaching children with hearing loss since 1993, with a short hiatus to have children of her own. She has been an itinerant and a classroom teacher through the years. Sherri has worked with children in Auditory Verbal, Auditory-Oral, and Cued Speech approaches. She received her Master's degree from the John Tracy Clinic/University of San Diego Program and is an LSLS Certified Auditory-Verbal Educator. Sherri currently works for the NC Office of Education Services as a Resource Support Specialist.
Beth WalkerBeth Walker, M.Ed., CED, LSLS Cert. AVT, earned a Master's in Deaf Education and has been teaching and learning from deaf children and their parents for 30 years. She has used a variety of approaches including Auditory-Verbal, Oral, Cued Speech, and Total Communication in public school and private settings. She has trained and supervised speech and hearing professionals in public and private settings and taught as a college-level instructor. She has served as educational consultant to numerous programs in the U.S. and abroad. She is currently a practicing Auditory-Verbal therapist and educational consultant in private practice.
Names in the News
Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph. D.Dr. Anne Marie Tharpe has been involved with FIRST YEARS since the inception of the program. She has served as both author and course facilitator for Audiology Interpretation and Hearing Technologies while serving as associate director of education for the National Center for Childhood Deafness and Family Communication within the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center and as a research investigator with the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. Recently, Dr. Tharpe was named the chair of the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt. We wish Dr. Tharpe the very best in her new role and thank her for her many contributions to FIRST YEARS!
Christine BartonChristine Barton is a music therapist in Indianapolis, Indiana, and recently joined the newest class of students. Chris, along with colleague Amy McConkey Robbins, developed TuneUps, a music habilitation program that engages children in a listening, language, and learning experience. TuneUps recently received the MVP Award in Speech Language Pathology/ Audiology from Therapy Times’ 2009 Most Valuable Products competition. Congratulations!
Natalie Skergan, a FIRST YEARS guest lecturer, provides a loving "YouTube" testimonial about Rachel Skergan, her 5-year-old daughter -- and how bilateral (MED-EL) cochlear implants have helped Rachel overcome many obstacles normally associated with hearing loss. (Click to view)
Rachel's video
FIRST YEARS in Eastern Europe
by Kathryn Wilson, FIRST YEARS Program Director

Little did I know that making the choice to become a speech-language pathologist more than 30 years ago would ultimately lead me to Copenhagen, Warsaw, and Istanbul.

Warren and KathrynIn early 2009, I traveled and worked with Warren Estabrooks (M.Ed., Dip. Ed. Deaf, LSLS Cert. AVT), President and CEO of WE Listen International, Inc.,  a worldwide training consultant in auditory-verbal therapy and practice.  I had never presented workshops and conferences outside North America before; but when first asked if I would be interested in a joint-training mission, I didn't hesitate with my "Yes!" I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

As preparation of slides, handouts, and video clips got underway, I wondered how things might be different in these countries compared to what was so familiar to me here at home.

  • All participants spoke English but not as their first language; yet they would be expected to participate in long days of training where English was the only language spoken by the instructors.  Would we understand each other and be able to engage in meaningful dialogue? 
  • Very few were to be speech-language pathologists or teachers of the deaf.  Most were special educators, psychologists and even one person was a physician.
  • Guiding parents and active parent participation in all aspects of the child’s habilitation was one of my presentation topics; however the concept of working with parents and caregivers vs. only the child was a novel idea to most professionals in these countries.  Would there be “buy-in” to the information?
  • And of course there would be cultural differences that could influence the ability to relate to each other.
I need not have worried. As I worked with the participants, I came to appreciate that we were all united by the common purpose of helping the children we serve, regardless of where we live, the languages we speak, or our cultural beliefs and practices.

Each workshop lasted 2 days and included video analysis, group assignments, case studies, lectures, and problem solving.  We began and ended our days with fabulous food, conversation, and laughter.  I worked hard to understand a bit of the native languages and they worked hard to understand a gal with a strong Southern accent! 

Training began in Copenhagen. In Denmark, I discovered that while bilateral cochlear implantation is now routine there, very few professionals at present have the expertise to work with this population.  Next stop was Warsaw, where we conducted our training at the International Center for Speech and Hearing founded by implant surgeon Dr. Henryk Skarzyski. In addition to the Polish professionals who worked at the International Center, professionals from the Czech Republic and Hungary also participated. 

The last stop on our training mission was Istanbul, Turkey, a city of 17 million people that sits on the Bosphorus Strait where Europe and Asia meet.  Here I had ONE day to take in as much of the city as possible.  On a Sunday morning I set out with a driver and an English- speaking guide to explore Istanbul.  Several historic sites, including the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia in the Old City, plus a shopping spree to purchase a handmade Turkish rug or "carpet" highlighted my excursion. Perhaps the most remarkable part of the day was that I actually found my way back to the hotel.

Without question, this international experience was one of the highlights of my career.  Next on the itinerary? I have submitted my passport for renewal and eagerly await another training opportunity abroad.

For Your Information: Distance Learning
According to a study conducted for The U.S. Department of Education by SRI International (2009): "On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."  As the only online distance education certificate program in the United States designed for listening and spoken language professionals, FIRST YEARS is uniquely positioned to increase the number of well-trained and qualified providers.  Spread the word!  The entire report is available at:

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© 2009, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill FIRST YEARS Certificate in Auditory Learning for Young Children with Hearing Loss. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes. 
Publication date: September, 2009