Working with a Proud Community: Raqshinda Khan | Teachers College Columbia University

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Working with a Proud Community: Raqshinda Khan
(Ed.M., Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program)


Life Before TC:

After a stint teaching English in Spain, Raqshinda Khan knew she had a future working with English Language Learners. When she returned home, she worked at High Expectations, an enrichment program for underserved youth offered by the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF). When Teach for America accepted her application, she was assigned to Intermediate School 528 in Washington Heights – where she has been teaching English and writing, designing a new advisory curriculum, and taking on various leadership roles ever since.

Why TC:

Almost a decade ago, Khan enrolled in a deaf education class “just for fun,” and found herself drawn to the learning community of the deaf and hard of hearing. After doing some volunteer work with the New York Society for the Deaf and having the opportunity to take a summer course at the world-famous Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., Khan knew “I wanted to broaden my teaching repertoire to this other population of students.” So she enrolled at one of the nation’s oldest programs in the field, a program she says she was immediately drawn to because “it was a really nurturing and supportive learning community.”


TC Takeaway:

TC offered “a lot of experiences connecting our classroom experiences to the real world,” Khan says. Among the most rewarding was an internship at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, where she made good use of the TC “workshop model” – taught in American Sign Language. “I was able to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and really evaluate my own philosophies, and think about the best way to approach teaching a deaf child,” Khan says.


What’s Next:

Khan is looking forward to bringing her many years of teaching experience to a new population of deaf and hard of hearing learners. There are many different approaches to deaf education, much of it falling into the “Big D/little d” divide between those who think of being deaf as a purely physical condition (little d) versus those who identify as being part of a larger cultural community of the Deaf (Big D). Khan hopes to work in the “Big D” world, in which students are proud of using sign language and their broader identity. But wherever she lands, she is excited to be able to make a contribution to a world by in which relatively small numbers of hearing people have played a significant role. “I realized the deaf community has great pride in their language,” Khan says, “but they have been underserved in their learning.”
– Ellen Livingston

Published Friday, Jun 3, 2016