Deaf education teacher retires after four decades

Deaf education teacher retires after four decades

26 November 2021

Reward and recognition Public school life

For the past four decades local teacher Leanne Potter, has been shaping deaf education across Western Australia.

Starting out as a teacher of hearing children, Ms Potter moved into educating students who were deaf and hard of hearing because of her father who was deaf and often shared his equity struggles with her.

Auslan Coordinator Dr Karen Bontempo, former Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr Alastair McEwen, and Ms Leanne Potter.

“Deaf education is an area where we can work from birth to 18 years of age, which enables us to develop supportive relationship with students and their families,” Ms Potter said.

Ms Potter was instrumental in setting up the Deaf Unit at Swanbourne Senior High School in 1985.

Up until then deaf and hard of hearing students from aged three to 17 were taught at one campus, until it was realised deaf teenagers would benefit from being educated alongside hearing students, and hearing students would benefit from learning sign.

“I have enjoyed being part of the deaf education movement that focuses on looking at deafness as a linguistic and cultural minority group rather than as a disability group,” said Ms Potter.

“To that end I have been able to push for access and equity in the sector, so deaf students have the right to an equal education to that of their hearing peers.”

Later in 2000 Swanbourne Senior High School and Hollywood Senior High School joined together to form Shenton College and Shenton College Deaf Education Centre in 2001, where Ms Potter worked as a principal for several years.

The Shenton College Deaf Education Centre has been applauded for its use of deaf staff, the recognition of qualified interpreters and the development of Auslan as a Language Other than English, which Ms Potter was also heavily involved with.

“I served for 22 years on the board of the WA Deaf Society and in that role deaf adults told me what they really needed in their education. This provided me with my vision and goals,” said Ms Potter.

Ms Potter’s achievements have had a profound impact on deaf education in Western Australia and has said that working to be the best one can be and making systemic changes is rewarding.

“There were many people before me who gave their all for deaf education.

 “I was incredibly fortunate to work in a time of great cultural and systemic change, particularly with such passionate people at Shenton College Deaf Education Centre over the last eight years.

“As for the future, I’m privileged to have ongoing relationships with those in the deaf community which is a reminder that progress is a journey and friendships are to be treasured.”