Imagine a silent world where you can’t even hear the sound of your own voice. This is the world that Glena Marcum lives in and thrives in as she teaches deaf students at Trout Primary how to communicate. Her world is similar to her students in that they are all learning together how to be successful in a hearing world. Her world is different; she has experienced a full and rich life with marriage, children, and fulfilling work that makes a difference in the lives of others. That silent world opened up to her when she turned seven years old and began to learn sign language.
“No doctors believed I was deaf until I was three years old. My mom knew I was deaf because we lived by the train tracks, and I couldn’t hear it. Doctors would say that I was just a spoiled child. Then the audiologist said that I had nerve damage, and I was deaf in both ears,” Mrs. Marcum said.
Mrs. Marcum is amazing because she can speak clearly even though she cannot hear her voice. When she was young, her mother sat beside her and helped her form words.
She said, “I learned to sign when a public law was passed in 1974. My first experience signing was when I was seven. I have no memory from before that time language wise.”
She said, “They don’t believe I’m deaf because I can speak. My mom taught me how to speak and to speak correctly. She made it not forceful. I could hear her voice in my mind and know it was her. I can’t hear my sisters. I can see her from the side because she taught me how to speak. Deaf is very visual.”
Growing up near Fort Hood where her father was in the military was very difficult for a deaf child. Mrs. Marcum went to Killeen High School with her two sisters where she was a bookworm. She was the only deaf student in the school. She spent a lot of time reading and joined a group of girls who worked in the community. After high school, she attended East Texas State University, Central Texas College, and Texas Woman’s University where she received a bachelor’s degree in deaf education.
She said, “College was very different from now. There were no interpreters. I had one girl who spelled slowly and only knew ASL 1. I wanted to tell her ‘just take notes for me, and I’ll act like I’m listening to him but I’m really reading your notes’.”
Her first job was at Tyler ISD as an elementary reading specialist for deaf children.
She met her husband who is also deaf at a Halloween party. He lost his hearing due to spinal meningitis when he was two or three years old.
“I always knew I would marry a deaf man for communication. Hearing couples still have communication problems. If you’re among hearing people, the deaf partner gets left out,” she said.
The couple have two children: 19-year-old daughter Hannah Leah, who Mrs. Marcum says with a laugh has selective hearing, and 9-year-old Daniel who is at Slack Elementary in the deaf ed program because he is hard of hearing. After getting married, the couple was in Waco for two years, Wichita Falls a year, and Bryan College Station for five years. Mrs. Marcum taught at several schools and even taught American Sign Language at Blinn Junior College. She then chose to become a stay-at-home mom to teach her children.
Her husband, Kenneth, is a machinist in Bryan College Station. Mrs. Marcum drives from College Station and also has a place in Alto in the country. She’s hoping they find a home in Lufkin. When she’s driving in from College Station, she has to leave at 4:30 a.m. in order to drop off her son and make it to work.
Some interesting facts about Mrs. Marcum are that she loves blaring loud music to feel the vibrations, she is vegan, dreams in sign language not sounds, drives (pulled over only once for speeding when she was 19), and likes to experiment with cooking (even though she made a vegan hot dog once that the dog wouldn’t even eat).
She teaches pre-k through 2nd grade. Some of her students have cochlear implants or hearing aids.
She said,”I teach all the same but in different ways. My favorite part is watching the kids grasp the language signing. I sign and voice at the same time.”
As she tells about the daily schedule of reading, writing, recess, social studies, science, lunch, naps, and learning centers, she talks about how the students are alone in the silent world when they go home.
“It’s different when they go home. They’re alone, no friends that sign, parents don’t sign. I let them go play while I watch them. I point to things and say “Sign that” so they learn vocabulary. I work with them one on one,” she said.
Mrs. Marcum says that she chooses Lufkin for her son.
“A friend told me that Lufkin is a good school for deaf kids. I love it. For my son, we moved to Lufkin. I like the environment. I saw how the teachers interact, and prayed if that is where I need to be, I’ll go.”
We are grateful to have Mrs. Marcum, with her amazing personality and passion for teaching children to love learning through sign language. Thank you for choosing Lufkin ISD!