(JOHNSON CITY, N.Y.) — When a little girl who wears cochlear implants was out of school, magic happened.
Ann Redmore is a first grader at St. James School in Johnson City, New York. Earlier this week she had to miss school for an appointment related to her implants.
And on that very day, Holly the elf arrived in her classroom. And just like Ann, Holly wears two pink cochlear implant processors.
“While she was out her sign language interpreter and classroom teacher decided that there should be a Deaf elf to go along with all the hearing elves in the classrooms,” her mom Jennifer Redmore told “Good Morning America.”
The goal of the elf was to “make our school more inclusive for Ann and our students, Ann’s teacher, Olivia Dennison, and interpreter, Lynette Shear, told “GMA” in an email. “The elves are all so similar and do not reflect the diversity of all students. Being an advocate for inclusive education, it is important to show all children that we are all created equally and wonderfully in the eyes of God.”
When Ann first saw the elf, they said, she was proud and in awe.
“She touched her processors in amazement that the elf and her looked the same. She was proud to tell everyone about the elf, including the other elf in our classroom,” the teacher and interpreter told “GMA.” “And not just Ann, but her classmates and other students in the school. Holly [the elf] has been the center of conversation ever since we all first met her, and everyone wants to visit her and practice signing to her.”
“This surprise with Holly the Elf made Ann feel so proud. We love St James School and her whole team,” Redmore said.
The teachers want the kids to know “everyone that we are all equal and all deserve to be represented. Children have fresh minds and they absorb everything they see and hear, so when we can show them something small, like an elf with cochlear implants, we teach them really big ideas about acceptance, equality, culture, and representation,” Dennison said.
The photo of Ann and Holly was first posted on the Facebook page of the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion. The organization’s mission is full inclusion in Catholic schools for students with disabilities. Ann attends the same Catholic school as her six siblings. Luke (11th) , James (10th) and Mary (7th) are in the upper school at Seton Catholic Central School in Binghamton, and John (6th), Mark (4th)and Peter (pre-K 4-year-old) are with Ann at St. James.
At school, Ann has a wireless FM system worn by the teacher that streams right to her cochlear implant and a sign language interpreter, her mom said. “Working with her team at NYU, our local public school district as well as the Catholic school, Ann is able to access the curriculum through both sign and spoken language.”
Dennison and Shear wrote in their email, “Ann brings a unique personality and culture to our school. She helps our students be aware, and accept differences while still showing how wonderful they can be. We are so grateful to have Ann in our classroom and our school as an amazing friend and student and can only hope that everyone gets a chance to experience the culture she is blessed to be a part of.”
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