UA Researcher Heads to Chile to Help Improve Deaf Education

UA Researcher Heads to Chile to Help Improve Deaf Education

By La Monica Everett-HaynesUniversity Communications
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Ruth Claros-Kartchner never imagined she would return to her birthplace in Chile to conduct research.

But return she will. She has been invited by the Chilean Ministry of Education to study the country’s deaf education, to determine what is not working and to make recommendations on ways to improve the situation.

“I’ve gone to 12 countries in Latin America to find out what the trend is and what is going on with deaf education,” said Claros-Kartchner, an associate professor at The University of Arizona South, in Sierra Vista, who teaches Spanish and bilingual education. “I can see where the needs are.”

Claros-Kartchner, who is also the adviser for the Spanish minor offered at UA South, leaves for Chile in July and will stay through December. She will focus on four schools – two in the provinces and two in Santiago, the capital of Chile.

Already a known expert in literacy development, bilingual education and foreign language teaching methods, Claros-Kartchner said she received the invitation from the ministry because she has presented at numerous international conferences that have focused on bilingual and deaf education.

Education issues in Latin America have been at the center of Claros-Kartchner’s work since her undergraduate years. She earned all of her degrees at the UA: a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1987, a master’s degree in applied linguistics three years later, and a doctorate in bilingual education and literacy development in 2000. For her dissertation, she studied what was happening with deaf education in 11 different countries.

Claros-Kartchner, who speaks Spanish and English, became involved in deaf education about 15 years ago while teaching Spanish at the UA. She came across a man who wanted to take Spanish, but was deaf. When the department head asked her about what might be done to help the young man, Ruth offered to set up a special classroom for him. She used a room that had six monitors and one of her colleagues helped connect them to a computer. The colleague typed whatever was happening in the class – in Spanish – so that all of the students could follow the monitor on the screen. That way, she could include the student.

She said this opportunity was wonderful “because it opened the deaf world to me in ways I could never remember.”

“I had to become very, very creative. I went to the library and read just about every book I could find on deafness,” she said.

For eight years beginning in 1990, she served as an educator and coordinator for the UA’s Guadalajara Summer School program in Mexico. In 2005, the Latin American Conference on Bilingual Education for the Deaf’s organizing committee honored her for her contributions to deaf education.

After completing her research in Chile, Claros-Kartchner said she would also make suggestions on how schools deliver standardized tests to deaf students.

“The situation varies from country to country,” said Claros-Kartchner, whose research has been published in Chile, Argentina, Mexico and other parts of Latin America.

It is not uncommon to put deaf students in hearing classrooms, “which creates a situation that is difficult,” she said. “But most of the countries don’t have programs to prepare interpreters.”

“I will present my proposals there and here as well,” she said. “I really think a lot of these issues can be addressed not only in all of Latin America, but also right here in the state of Arizona and probably the rest of the world.”

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