Peggy Mayer, Ed.D.-Head of School
Working at Northwest School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children has been the honor and delight of my life for three decades. It was my privilege to be one of the school’s first two teachers when my friends and mentors, Karen Appelman and Judy Callahan, started the school in 1982. After completing my doctorate, I spent two years in New York working in the research and training department at Lexington School for the Deaf/Lexington Center. I then returned to NWSDHH to serve as the Coordinator for Teacher Education & Research and later as Head of School. I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent so many years working in this positive and research-based program. It not only supports deaf and hard-of-hearing children, their families and their teachers, but also empowers everyone in our school community to achieve their dreams.
Britnée Blake-Teacher of the Deaf
I have been working at NWSDHH since 2012. I was born and raised in Seattle and received my Bachelor’s in education from Antioch University. I graduated with my Master’s in Deaf Education from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. I love that I was able to return to the Pacific Northwest after graduating. I love working at NWSDHH because of the knowledgeable and supportive staff. We all work together to give our students the education they deserve. In my free time I enjoy reading and watching movies.
Rita Blood—Teaching Assistant
I’ve worked at NWSDHH since 1991. What I love about working at this amazing school is the staff. Teachers really care about the kids and go out of their way to be supportive and helpful.
Jan Bunker—Teaching Assistant
My interest in Sign Language began when I was eight years old. My best friend was deaf. Later, two of my cousins had daughters who were born deaf. Then, when I went to university I decided to take a class in Signing Exact English, and the rest is history. Although I’ve had many interesting jobs, working here at the school has, by far, been the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve ever had.
I love teaching a concept and then seeing the light in a student’s eyes when they “get it.” There’s nothing like chatting with a former student and seeing how successful they’ve become, how well they are doing, and how happy they are in their lives. It’s an incredible feeling.
When I’m not at work, I interpret for the Shoreline Parks Department for swim lessons, ballet, hip-hop dance, basketball, soccer, and lots of other fun activities. In my free time I love to read and spend time working with my International student on her English skills.
Erin Crafton, MS, CCC-SLP—Aural Habilitation Specialist
I work with NWSDHH kids both individually and in small groups, focusing on listening, speech, and language skills. I completed my Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at Gallaudet University, and have a wide background in working with kids and adults who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. NWSDHH is a School unlike any I have ever seen before. It is amazing to work with such a dedicated group of teachers and see language, speech, and listening integrated into the entire school day!
Lynessa Cronn—Teacher of the Deaf
I’ve had the pleasure of teaching at NWSDHH for 30 years. During that time, I’ve seen students flourish in so many ways. Our graduates love to stay in touch and refer to NWSDHH as the place where they received an excellent education. They credit NWSDHH for their strong speech, language and writing skills. The success of our graduates, as well as the promise of our current students, motivates me as a teacher at NWSDHH.
Kathy Egashira – Teaching Assistant
Though I’ve worked at NWSDHH for a decade, I have been signing for more than 20 years. My first experience signing was visiting retirement homes with the Campfire Girls and interacting with deaf residents using fingerspelling. Because of this I wanted to learn more sign language and attended college to learn ASL. When I was a bus driver for Northshore School District, I learned SEE because the deaf students on my bus taught me to sign this way.
I can actually say that I love my job! I love seeing the kids light up when they grasp something they have been working on, and their laughter and joy for life fills my heart.
Alison Fuson—Teacher of the Deaf
I was born and raised in Saint Louis, MO. I’ve always had a strong connection to my teachers, and knew I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age. I moved West in 1993 and studied theater, linguistics, children’s literature, and Deaf Culture & American Sign Language at The Evergreen State College. After graduating in 1997, I moved to Seattle and began working at NWSDHH as a classroom assistant. I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to have my own classroom, so I moved to Portland, OR to complete my Master’s in Special Education: Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing at Lewis and Clark College.
I love working with NWSDHH children and their families—especially finding new ways to build language and understanding through playful learning, movement, story, and art.
Tonya S. Fuqua—Teaching Assistant
Our School promotes excellence in student learning and literacy. This standard is why I come to school every day to help our students be all they can be. Delivering this level of excellence requires a team that is committed to go above and beyond, and I am proud to be a part of this team. I support our students with mainstreaming classes for Physical Education, history, geography, science, and other subjects.
Bridget Gordon—Teaching Assistant
I came to work at this school because it’s so full of life and laughter. NWSDHH is an extension of my family. It is so rewarding to watch kids unlock and use new skills and to get to celebrate with them. I can’t imagine working anywhere else. In my free time I love to be out on the water boating with friends and family.
Liliana Grip – Director of Philanthropy
Since first becoming involved with NWSDHH as a board member more than 13 years ago, nothing—not even moving out-of-state—has been able to sever my love for and commitment to the school. After retiring from Region’s Bank after a career that spanned the telecommunications, banking and non-profit sectors, I returned to the Pacific Northwest in 2013. This gave me the chance to follow my heart and contribute to NWSDHH in a bigger way.
Seeing how hard our students work and the dedication of our teachers motivates me to ask others to invest in our program and our students. It is a labor of love and I get to work with an extended family of very smart people who truly care about one another and the children and families we all serve. Corny as it sounds: “Love is the answer” for me.
Danise Ito—Teacher of the Deaf
A native of California’s sunny Central Valley, I earned my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at California State University, Fresno, in Communication Disorders and Deaf Studies while working as a substitute ASL interpreter and teacher. After graduating I worked with the Fresno Unified School District oral/aural program, but knew I wanted a different experience in Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing education. It was then that a former professor sent me a job posting from Northwest School with the message: “This is the job for you.” And it was.
In August of 2010 I joined NWSDHH, which creates a healthy and positive working environment for educators so that we, in turn, can do the same for our students. While it is my job to teach academics to children, I enjoy supporting parents as they navigate through the unique journey of raising children with hearing loss.
Barbara Luetke—Literacy and Outreach Coordinator
After working as a professor in deaf education for the 27 years (most recently in Texas) and training over 350 teachers of the deaf, I came to work at NWSDHH in 2009. My undergraduate degree in Special Education is from the University of Wisconsin and my Master’s in Deaf Education was earned at the University of Minnesota. I taught deaf children and others with special needs for five years before returning to Pennsylvania State University for my doctorate in Deaf Education and Bilingual Education. Both my Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation focused on parents of Spanish speaking children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
As a parent of four adult daughters, the youngest two of whom are deaf, I wish my girls had attended NWSDHH. I wake up every day excited to assist parents on their journey, schedule tours, serve on area, state, and regional committees, and support our amazing staff! It is a joy to share the magic of our research-based practices and outcomes with parents and professionals across the country.
Meigan McLean—Teacher of the Deaf
One summer I was hired by the YMCA in Victoria, BC as an “interpreter/counselor” for a deaf camper because I knew ASL. This summer experience helped me decide to pursue a career in Linguistics at the University of Victoria and eventually continue on to became an ASL interpreter. Not satisfied with standing on the sidelines in the classroom interpreting, I returned to school, got my education degree then moved to the Great White North and worked in Northern Alberta teaching and coaching volleyball. Three years later, I went back to school to complete my Master’s Degree in Special Education/Deaf Education. One month after graduating from the University of British Columbia, I found myself driving down to Seattle from Vancouver, BC to be interviewed for a teaching position at NWS. Fast-forward several years later and after yet another degree, a Doctorate in Education, I started my 9th year at NWS as “Dr. McLean”.
NWSDHH is a magical place to learn—not just for the students or for the teachers—but for every person who walks in the door. At the end of the day, I know I made a difference and someone made my life different. When I’m not being a teacher, I’m spending time with my husband, my big black fluffy dog and my adorable daughter, puttering in my garden, reading, eating sushi, and planning my next ‘mini-vacation.’
Neva Miller—Executive Assistant
After 25 years of working as an Executive Assistant to presidents and VP’s in major organizations, I joined NWSDHH in 2008 as the assistant to our School’s founders after moving to this area from Colorado. I hold degrees from the University of Colorado and Mesa State College and am certified to teach elementary school in both Colorado and Washington. My job brings new and exciting challenges daily and is the perfect marriage of my teaching background and my corporate skills.
The atmosphere at our school is very positive, the staff is amazing, and the students are the best. Our students have such an advantage because they are not only taught academics, but important life and social skills. They leave us with many tools and the confidence they need to take on the world!
Jen Morris—Teacher of the Deaf
I’ve been at Northwest School since 2001. From a young age, I knew I wanted to work with deaf kids. In middle and high school in Michigan I learned to sign from deaf friends and interpreters. I earned my Bachelor’s in Special Education: Learning Disabilities from Hope College in 2000 and my Master’s degree in Special Education: Deaf and Hard-of-hearing from Lewis & Clark College in 2001. I have taught in oral, A.S.L., and Total Communication classrooms. Before joining NWSDHH in 2001, I didn’t fully understand why Signing Exact English was important. But at NWSDHH I noticed a huge difference between the kids I had worked with in other D/HH programs and our students. Our kids were thinking in English and reading on grade level!
When I’m not working at NWSDHH, I’m involved in Eastern European folk singing and dancing. This has furthered my own linguistic education and given me unique insight into what the learning process is like for our students!
Linda Penwell—Administrative Assistant
Hello! I work at the front desk and will happily answer any questions you might have. Formally trained in the culinary world, I changed careers when I was introduced to S.E.E. You can find me on most Monday nights at Children’s Hospital where I attend S.E.E. classes. I have a wide array of eclectic talents and interests. I love people and learning new things.
Kabian Rendel—Teacher of the Deaf
I received my BA in Deaf Education at Flagler College in Florida and I have worked at NWSDHH since 2004. I have the privilege of working with the middle school students and watching them transition from kids to young adults. I love the independence they acquire at this age and I truly enjoy all of the quirkiness of junior high students!
Outside of work, I love to find adventure in all forms! I am an avid camper; I love to scuba dive, and I recently went skydiving for the first time. That being said, a good book or some time in my garden brings me a lot of joy too.
Ramona Softich Gaines—Teaching Assistant
I have been working at NWSDHH since 2006. Do I like getting out of bed early in the morning? No. Do I love going to my job? Yes! This wonderful School, amazing staff, and precious children are a real blessing. I feel like I am a good fit for this work, as I have raised a deaf child of my own, along with three hearing children. Having used Signing Exact English for over 35 years and seeing how my daughter excelled because of it makes me want to continue sharing my skills and love with as many children as possible.
Outside of school I like to bike ride with my husband, garden, read, and of course, spend as much time as possible with my grown children and my granddaughter.