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General Interest | Tuesday, September 16, 2014
This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous deaf people and their impact in the world.
Heather Whitestone was the first deaf Miss America and the first Miss America with a disability. She competed for the Miss Alabama title three times before winning it, which finally sent her to the Miss America competition. She won Miss America in 1995 in Atlantic City.
Heather was born hearing in 1973. When she was 10 months old, she got sick with a high fever, which left her deaf.
Did you know?
Fevers burn off the hair receptors in the inner ear (cochlear); without those receptors, sound isn’t recognized or processed by the ear.
Communication and Education
Heather started out at her local school, using speech and hearing aids, but by 4th grade, she wanted to meet other deaf kids. She attended the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, which focuses on developing speech and speechreading skills as the primary form of communication. She went back to her local school for high school.
Did you know?
Deaf students can go to schools that teach different methods for communication, including sign language, lip reading, speech, and fingerspelling. Some schools use a mix of methods, some primarily focus on just one. Deaf students can attend the local public school, some go to day schools that have programs specifically designed for deaf students, and there are residential (boarding) schools where deaf students live during the school year and go home during breaks and vacations. Read more about Educational Options for Children that are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Learning the Ropes
Heather started competing in pageants, including Miss St. Clair, Miss Jacksonville State University, and Miss Alabama. Each pageant helped her to figure out how to communicate with judges and make an impression.
There she is, Miss America!
The Miss America pageant rules do not allow contestants to have any help (like coaches or interpreters) while competing. For her talent, she did a classical ballet en point to Sandi Patti’s “Via Delarosa.” She had spent two years preparing it, counting the beats with her hands on the stereo speakers. Once the music started, she did every move according to the memorized count in her head.
Watch Heather’s dance:
During her year as Miss America, Heather introduced her five-point STARS program: “Success Through Action and Realization of your Dreams.” She traveled to every corner of the country speaking to corporations, non-profit organizations, churches and government, including the FBI and CIA.
After the Crown
Heather is an author of four books (Listening with My Heart, Believing the Promise, Let God Surprise You, and Heavenly Crowns) a public speaker, and a wife and mom. She has volunteered her time for Republicans causes and spoke at the Republican National Convention for both Senator Bob Dole and George W. Bush. She has supported programs to train support dogs for deaf people, and organizations that distribute hearing aids to the poor around the world.
In the Spotlight Once More
In 2002, Heather elected to get a cochlear implant for her right ear. She had depended on some residual hearing in her left ear in conjunction with the implant, but lost that. In 2006, she got a second implant for her left ear. Her decision to have the implants was big news, and she was featured on several news programs.
Related Books (by Heather Whitestone)
- Vance, Daniel (2011, March 20). Miss America Heather Whitestone. Atlantic Highlands Herald. Retrieved from http://www.ahherald.com/columns-mainmenu-28/disabilities-week/10490-miss-america-heather-whitestone
- 1995 - Heather Whitestone. Miss America. Retrieved from http://www.missamerica.org/our-miss-americas/1990/1995.aspx
- (2006, September 21). Heather Whitestone McCallum, Miss America 1995, Receives Second Nucleus Cochlear Implant. Healthy Hearing. Retrieved from http://www.healthyhearing.com/content/news/Technology/Cochlear-implants/8605-Heather-whitestone-mccallum-miss
- (2002, September 20). After 29 Silent Years, Ex-Miss America Hears. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=116819&page=1
Learning Tips | Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Help students get back into the swing of the school year by showing them our 12 special "Back to School" instructional WonderGrove animations featuring sign language. The "Ask the Teacher for Help" animation is great to encourage students to ask for help when they are confused.
Accompanying the animation, there are extention lessons for Pre-K, Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade, all which have been crafted by educators and align to the common core standards. Download the extension lessons and use them at home or in class for easy activities that reinforce the lesson.
In addition to talking about the lesson in the animation, it’s a great idea to talk about the signs used with your students. The signs featured in “Ask the Teacher for Help” are:
You can also use our pre-made Signing Savvy Ask the Teacher for Help word list to go through the signs in the same order that they are shown in the animation.
Get free access to all of the "Back to School" WonderGrove instructional animations featuring sign language while you still can! We are offering 30-day free trial promotion, but you have to sign up by September 12, 2014. Register for the free WonderGrove trial and find out more.