Hearing A Higher Calling

Cleo Kirkton’s teaching experience at Pinewood has awakened her desire to teach the deaf and those with hearing disabilities.


Amanya Gonzales, Editor-in-Chief

Life doesn’t always go as planned; there are always obstacles and barriers in the way. However, what truly matters is what one does with what he or she has been given. For Elkhart-East student Cleo Kirkton, her senior year has gone a little differently than she had planned. Although most are tired of hearing about COVID, it is still relevant today and continues to interrupt many of lives: Kirkton included. Kirkton, initially, intended to intern at Oxbow Elementary this fall, but as fate would have it, she ended up at Pinewood instead.

Kirton’s hope was to gain experience teaching in Oxbow’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. COVID, however, had other plans. Due to restrictions, it just wasn’t possible for her to teach at Oxbow safely. So, she was moved to Pinewood Elementary–the home of the Panthers.  “Of course, at first I was disappointed because I had been looking forward to my internship at the DHH program for a while,” Kirkton admits. “In the end, I am so glad I was switched to Ms. McClintic’s 4th-grade class, because I have met so many wonderful people–and kids along with learning so much.”

During the school day, Kirkton finds herself doing a host of miscellaneous work. Usually, during their literature circles, she is paired with a group, helping them navigate through the reading. Kirkton adds, “Depending on the day, we might also play a spelling game, such as Sparkle, or even give the spelling test.” Continuing, she says, “I usually grade the spelling tests, as well.” Among her many tasks, teaching a math lesson is one of them. Math, in Kirkton’s opinion, is “what [she feels] most comfortable doing without actually being fully educated in elementary education.” This hard work, she’s found, is rewarding and a great learning experience. 

Teaching is taxing already, but COVID restrictions, Kirkton confesses, make teaching even tougher. Kirkton admits, “A lot of things are limited, and sometimes kids can get frustrated with their masks.”  However, that isn’t her only obstacle. Kirkton goes on to explain: “When it comes to normal obstacles that I would face any year, I would say just teaching [is the most difficult]. I am fine with interacting with the kids and all that, but lessons are quite possibly the hardest part.

Pausing to reflect for a moment, Kirkton continues. “I never really thought about how hard it is to explain a concept to kids who have never learned it.” However, Kirkton continues to teach, as it inspires and motivates her as much–if not more–than the kids. Her favorite aspect about teaching, though, is this: “I could list a lot of things to describe what I love about being here, but I have to say that when you see that a kid finally understands something they have been struggling with, it’s beyond words!”

Kirkton has worked tirelessly and with countless obstacles in her way. Despite this, she continues to teach and mentor her students. In the future, she plans on studying to become a teacher specializing in Deaf Education. Although her high school career is nearing its end, her teaching journey has just begun.