Leanor Vlug has spent 25 years at VCC teaching Deaf and hard of hearing students. Deaf herself since the age of 10, Vlug has been widely recognized for her contributions to the Deaf community. In the last year alone, she won a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Award of Merit, and an excellence award from the Disability Resource Network. She also has a master’s degree from UBC.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I am passionate about working with Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and hard of hearing adults to develop their English, sign language, and computer literacy skills to give them greater options in life. I have taught and worked with people of diverse backgrounds and feel I have learned as much from them as they have from my instruction. For many of the students who come from other cultures, it may be the first time they have seen a Deaf or hard of hearing adult who is also a role model.
What stands out a particularly memorable experience with a Deaf student?
During one of my early years teaching, I was working with a small group of students, most of whom were newcomers to Canada. One young man from Fiji was learning sign language and English at the same time, but making very slow progress. He could recognize a few words and do the ASL signs for them, but I suspected he might have a serious learning disability as well. After months of teaching and practicing, I was at the point of feeling we could not help this young man overcome his added disability. Then one morning, I wrote a few sentences on the blackboard about the day’s weather and an interesting news item. The young Fijian got my attention and started signing the sentences - actually reading the words. He really got it. The student was able to gain enough literacy skills and ‘street smarts’ to take an adapted career exploration course at VCC and eventually live on his own with community living support.
What do you want Deaf and hard of hearing people to know about learning at VCC?
VCC is about community. We see the importance of providing the best we can for our students, because for many – this is THE best place where they can learn and grow, gaining not only literacy and communication skills, but learning how to interact with other Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people. I believe we are a unique community that allows everyone to excel. We have students who find commonality with classmates and instructors. No longer isolated, they are able to participate more fully in their community.