What is your name?
Heather (Spreen) Aldridge
How old are you?
30 years old.
What city and state do you live in?
What years and grades did you attend Tucker Maxon?
1993 to 2003 (included middle school years)
Did you have a favorite teacher or staff member?
I had so many wonderful teachers at Tucker Maxon. My one person that had a big impact on me was a teacher’s aid, Diane Woods, who always believed in us. Chris Soland was my speech therapist and I truly appreciated her working with me. Jerry Roach was by far my most favorite PE teacher and after school sports teacher. He always brightened everyone’s day.
I’m honored being their student, as they taught me invaluable lessons that I still carry to this day.
I feel it’s important that I mention the following people who also made a lasting impact on my life: Margaret Smith, Mrs. Pam Fortier, Alice Davis, Mr. George Fortier, Linda Goodwin, Laura Lobby, Rebecca Archer, Jerry Roach, Chris Soland, Diane Woods, Susan Orlandi-Johnson, Pat Stone, Arlie Adam (audiologist), Meg Meredith (audiologist), Kimberli Davenport (audiologist), Jennifer Lootens, Patty (Patricia) Smith, Kerry Finn Gilley, Stacey Brown, Rebecca Brown, Pam Connor, and so many more.
What caused your hearing loss?
I was born profoundly Deaf, but my family was unaware until I took a genetic test, revealing my hearing loss. I learned that my mom and my dad each had one copy of a Deaf gene and they were the reason why my brother, Edward, and I were born Deaf. We still don’t know why my half-brother (different mother) was born Deaf, but we have a theory it was due to him contracting German Measles during the 1960’s. In addition, my son, Paxton, was born profoundly Deaf. He will be tested next month for the same Deaf gene I carry. Genetics are fascinating, aren’t they?
What kind of tools do you use to support you hearing today?
I’m wearing a Nucleus 6 cochlear implant and I love it! I got my cochlear implant when I was five years old on my right side, and wore a hearing aid on my left. In time, I learned I didn’t like the hearing aid much, so I opted to use the cochlear implant on its own.
My son, Paxton, I scheduled for his cochlear implant surgery on both sides on April 18th on this year.
Do you use sign/ASL?
Yes. I’ve used ASL since I was five years old. I decided to dedicate myself to ASL so I could communicate with my friends in the Deaf community and my Deaf half-brother.
How has hearing loss impacted your life of the life of people close to you?
I’ve been told that I speak very well and I owe my speaking abilities to Tucker Maxon! On a day-to-day basis, I still struggle with overlapping conversation and I recently saw my audiologist to readjust the map in my cochlear implant to address the issue. I’m still hoping to get to a point where this isn’t an issue for me. It’s actually one of my resolutions this year.
What did you study in college, and/or what kind of work do you do, or want to do?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Deaf Studies from Utah Valley University in 2013. From there, I became a mentor for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Utah Valley University. After 2 years in my mentor position, I realized that this wasn’t my passion, so I decided to apply to become a teacher aide at the School for the Deaf, where I would work with students who are Deaf and students who are Deaf Plus (Deaf with additional disabilities). It was there, at the School for the Deaf, that I found my passion. I get to work with Deaf children who are on the autism spectrum, and for me that’s been an absolute privilege.
Currently, I’m home full-time with my 23-month-old triplet boys. They keep me on my toes every day, and I’ve found that I love my role as a mother even more than my previous position.
When my boys are in school, I’m planning on going back to school to get my Master’s Degree and work toward becoming a teacher, with my end goal being becoming a teacher at the School for the Deaf. Additionally, I’d like to become a CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter) to empower the Deaf community and the hearing community.
Please share an accomplishment you are especially proud of.
I’m proud of the person I’ve become, and I owe credit to the wonderful family and friends who believed in me. I’m extremely proud of myself for graduating with my Bachelor of Art degree in Deaf Studies.
What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
It’s hard to narrow it down to just one place. I’ve been Mexico twice with my best friend and both times were incredible experiences.
I also went to Ghana (West Africa) for three months to teach Deaf students at the School for the Deaf. It was extremely hard being away from my husband, but the memories and experiences I gained while there are irreplaceable. I got to experience cultural shock and I loved every minute of that; it was fascinating to be taken out of my comfort zone like that and adjust to a new way of life, and a different kind of language barrier.
My husband and I went to Maine for out getaway trip in the fall of 2016 and it might top the charts as far as my most favorite place. Seeing the leave change while we were there was unforgettable.
What do you look forward to most each day?
I love working with people. I’m looking forward to getting back to work at the School for the Deaf so I can make difference in the lives of students, like the staff at Tucker Maxon did for me. I look forward to taking this golden opportunity to empower these wonderful students to become independent in their lives.
Please share something you learned as a student at Tucker Maxon that has stayed with you ever since.
I had so many wonderful memories at Tucker Maxon. I’ll start with how we focused on a new country every year such as Australia, Japan, Africa, Italy, etc. Our classes would focus on food, culture, special guests, skits, and the like. I specifically remember being taught how to carry a baby doll on our backs traditionally like mothers in Africa do. It was really cool to see that in person when I was in Africa later in life. I enjoyed learning about different countries and their customs, and looked forward to every opportunity to learn about a new place.
I also have memories of struggling to pronounce certain words in math class, like protractor, composite, etc. To help us learn the words, our teacher got us involved in a flashcard challenge to make learning those words exciting. I remember the screaming and laughter in the classroom. It’s one of my more fond memories, and I wish the flashcard challenge would have continued through high school.
Any words of advice for today’s Tucker Maxon students (deaf/hard-of-hearing, typical, or both)?
I remember when I was young, I would watch people, and noticed how they talked so fast and I aspired to be like them, so I decided to speak fast, but all anyone could hear was me mumbling. But I didn’t let it get me down. I learned to speak up and talk normal or slowly in order for them to understand me. It’s about perseverance. There are so many doors that you can open and explore in your life. Explore new opportunities, experiences, and cherish them. Teach other people to work with you, with your hearing loss, and let them learn who you are as a person. Not everyone will meet Deaf people who can talk or use a signed language. You’re the one that can teach them about new perspectives, so get out there and go do it!