Meghan Fochtman, who teaches students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Dort Elementary School in Roseville, works with first-grader Aysha Mahmoud in class last month.

Meghan Fochtman, who teaches students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Dort Elementary School in Roseville, works with first-grader Aysha Mahmoud in class last month.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Teacher hopes to acquire green screen for her classroom

Tech would allow her hard of hearing and deaf students to use their creativity

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 11, 2018


ROSEVILLE — A Roseville Community Schools teacher is raising money to purchase a green screen that should make possible some new, engaging learning activities for her deaf and hard of hearing students.

Meghan Fochtman teaches the deaf and hard of hearing class at Dort Elementary School in Roseville. She has utilized green screen technology — which allows one to digitally change the background during a presentation, as in a television weather report — as a learning tool.

“I had seen people do it online several years ago and thought I could apply that here in the classroom,” Fochtman said. “In the hands of my students, it would be a great way for them to be creative.”

She has experimented with the technique using a homemade green screen made with construction paper from her bulletin board. Now, she is seeking to expand her use of such techniques by raising money through, a site where teachers can raise money for particular projects. She is seeking to raise $707 for a real screen. She had raised approximately $450 as of last week. The fundraiser’s online information says that the green screen will reach seven students.

“They didn’t quite understand what we were doing at first, but when they saw the end product, they got excited,” she said. “I think the students could get inspired by this project to explore something new that they could go into when they grow up. … My students are very visual learners, and I thought this would be a great, hands-on visual way for them to learn stories and express themselves. They can create the background to help tell their stories and use the green screen to interpret book pages in the background.”

Fochtman said teachers like her have to find ways to connect and communicate with students without having to rely on the spoken word. She said hearing loss creates barriers between people and can cause learning obstacles that those who have never had to face such challenges would not consider.

“The students in this program typically have profound hearing loss and use sign language as their primary form of communication, so we have to have staff that can use sign language to teach them,” said Roseville Community Schools Director of Special Education Teresa Tomala. “Deafness has a significant impact on a student’s education and language development, so steps need to be taken to foster speech production, improve social skills that they may have not developed fully by not being able to hear, approaching issues that can affect those who are deaf, and introducing them to deaf adults to teach them it doesn’t have to be a barrier to reaching their hopes and dreams.”

By using a visual and creative medium, Fochtman is able to give her students hands-on projects that are fun, educational and an effective means of learning new subjects.

“I have had them do retellings of stories in our language arts curriculum, and I also thought we can try to have them to do ABC and number stories, which are a big part of deaf learning and deaf culture. It also exposes them to new technology. It exposes them to more, and is another way to engage them with hands-on projects,” she explained. “I made a makeshift one years ago out of green paper. I would like to do it for real.”

Fochtman said creative techniques like this are necessary because society as we know it is designed for people who can hear. People pick up things by overhearing others or listening to other people and being able to duplicate them, and those with hearing issues often miss out on that. Using alternative techniques like the green screen can help students overcome barriers.

“Because our students are deaf, a lot of them have their language delayed,” Fochtman said. “Most of our kids are born to hearing parents. They miss out on a lot of communication in their learning from 1 to 5 years old they’re not getting, which is when most of us learn how to communicate. I am teaching them their language while teaching them academics.”

Fochtman said tackling the hurdle of communication often comes down to making sure to work with students on their own terms and finding ways to connect with each student on a personal basis.

“I do have set-aside time to teach them ASL, and then, of course, they all have Individualized Education Plans, which is how each student sets academic goals for each subject,” she said. “Myself and my aide, we just have to break the curriculum down into smaller pieces and teach them the core content as best as we can. I try to bring in different things to help teach them via hands-on activities or by using video.”

Fochtman is responsible for hard of hearing and deaf elementary school students from all around Macomb County.

“Our program operates for the Macomb Intermediate School District, so they are from all over Macomb County,” said Tomala. “Because it’s a low-population program, each district can’t have its own program, so we centralized them here.”

By always looking for new ways to connect with students, Fochtman is able to meet students’ shifting needs.

“Mrs. Fochtman is a dedicated educator who is very devoted to her students,” said Tomala. “She is always looking for new ways to reach her students, and her classroom is full of adaptations to help her students and help them access the curriculum fully. She also is teaching ASL classes for parents in the evenings.”

Tomala added that people should remember the hardworking teachers who go the extra mile like Fochtman to make sure no student is missing out on educational opportunities.