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Kathryn with a FIRST YEARS favorite, Rachel Skergan, now 5.Greetings from FIRST YEARS!
by Kathryn Wilson, M.A., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT (
FIRST YEARS Program Director

My greetings to you in our very first edition of fyi - a newsletter designed to keep you informed of current events and activities and to provide an opportunity to hear from our instructors, former graduates, current students, and others affiliated with the program.

In mid-September I came on board as the FIRST YEARS Program Director, following the outstanding program leadership provided by Laurie Cochenour. (Laurie is now the E-Learning Policy Coordinator for Faculty Excellence at UNC-CH. We will hear from her in a future edition of the newsletter.) I am excited about moving forward with FIRST YEARS, continuing this unique distance education program for practicing clinicians wanting to expand their knowledge and skills in the development of listening and spoken language.

In this very first edition, I would like to acknowledge acknowledge the Demant Foundation for their generous support of FIRST YEARS and our course instructors who bring their extraordinary expertise to our program -- Elizabeth Cole, Don Goldberg, Lyn Robertson, Karen Rossi, Holly Teagle and Anne Marie Tharpe. Online teaching requires very different skills than face-to-face instruction, and this outstanding group of professionals, along with our amazing students, help make us the best in professional development education! My thanks to Demant and to the FIRST YEARS faculty.

I look forward to bringing our next edition to you in Summer 2009.

Applications for fall, 2009, enrollment now being accepted
We currently have 29 students in the program and a new class will begin August 2009. Please share with those who are interested that they can apply online at Applications must be submitted prior to May 20, 2009.

Six FIRST YEARS graduates and a current student have received the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) credential. Congratulations to Melissa McDonald, Jane Smith Carla Ann Marino Ann Bauman Michael Dormer Sherri Fickensher, and Lori Eggers. We are very proud that FIRST YEARS played a key role in preparing them to meet this goal.
Donald M. Goldberg FIRST YEARS: Reflections of an "old/older" dog!
by Donald M. Goldberg, Ph.D., CCC-SLP/A, FAAA, LSLS Cert. AVT

It is my pleasure to contribute to fyi's inaugural edition!

Please allow me to make an inaugural statement: UNC's FIRST YEARS certificate program is one of the finest professional training programs that superbly prepares practicing clinicians to enhance their work with children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Since 2004, several cohorts have participated in the program speech-language pathologists, teachers of the hearing impaired, audiologists from all parts of the U.S. Not only have they received cutting-edge academic training in critically important areas for working with their children (from counseling to speech acoustics to audiology diagnostics to sensory technology, including hearing aids and cochlear implants, to speech-language development to emergent literacy, among others), there is a clinical practicum component as icing on the cake!

How do I know this? I have spent the last three fall "semesters" as the facilitator for the first, introductory class. My experience interacting with these most enthusiastic, sharing, gifted, and focused professionals has truly been one of the highlights of my professional life. And, as more and more professionals seek certification from the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language, I know that FIRST YEARS provides one of the finest options in preparing and excelling in the skills sets for teaching children to learn to listen for spoken language development. It has truly been my honor in participating in this fantastic training program.

"Dr. Don"
Donald M. Goldberg, Ph.D., CCC-SLP/A, FAAA, LSLS Cert. AVT
Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio
Co-Director of the Head and Neck Institute's Hearing Implant Program
President, AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language
Lindsay Zombek Life after FIRST YEARS
by Lindsay Zombek, M.S., CCC-SLP (graduated '07)

A year has gone by since I graduated from FIRST YEARS. As the primary speech language pathologist working with a large cochlear implant team in an outpatient hospital setting, I work with children and adults with cochlear implants daily.

I smile as I look back at this week at my job. On Monday, I discussed FM systems and classroom acoustic modifications with a therapist in a school system. On Tuesday, I provided a parent with a document regarding what to look for in choosing a preschool setting for a child with a hearing loss. On Wednesday, I referenced class notes to review additional strategies for promoting literacy. On Thursday, I counseled a family who was having difficulty convincing an 18-month old to leave her hearing aids alone. In each of these situations, I used information and resources I learned, gathered, or created during FIRST YEARS. It seems every day in my practice, working with children with hearing loss and their parents, I use strategies to promote auditory learning that I gleaned from my class notes, from talking to my classmates and instructors, and from my practicum.

And the tools, information, resources, and contacts have continued after I graduated.

During classes, through discussion boards, we all got to know each other - exchanging information from professional perspectives, brainstorming challenging cases at work, and often sharing bits from our personal lives. In addition, during my mentorship practicum, I was able to spend two weeks with professionals, who provided direct feedback as I worked with children and helped me set personal goals to improve the therapy I provide.

Such strong personal and professional relationships, built "at a distance" (which may surprise those who have never experienced "distance ed") continue to teach and enrich me. My classmates, professors, and practicum mentors remain valuable resources. I contact them regularly with questions, via the fygrads listserv, and directly by email.

So, how has FIRST YEARS impacted my practice? The experience has prepared me to work with children from a wide variety of backgrounds and with different levels of hearing loss. I now know what I need to do when working with these children and how to explain why I do these things. I can contact the FIRST YEARS community to brainstorm difficult situations as I face them. And I am grateful to have continuing professional relationships with professors who are some of the leading therapists and researchers in this field.

Thank you FIRST YEARS.

Lindsay Zombek, M.S., CCC-SLP (
University Hospitals Case Medical Center/Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital
Cleveland, Ohio
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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: May, 2009