ISD’s Learning Environment & Curriculum
Breaking Communication Barriers
Direct communication is what sets Iowa School for the Deaf apart from public schools. Here, teachers provide instant information and feedback without needing to use an interpreter. Our students are amazed when food service staff, housekeepers and bus drivers sign with them. When communication barriers are eliminated, our students aren’t “different” from their peers. They experience true inclusion and enjoy peer interactions that build a sense of belonging and identity.
Highlights of Our Learning Environment
Direct instruction provides clear learning
A variety of languages and communication modes enable all students to participate in discussions.
Faculty are specialized teachers of the deaf
Same core curriculum offered as hearing peers
Curriculum meets Iowa Board of Education graduation requirements
Strong visual teaching approach
Low teacher-to-student ratio
As a public school, students/families are not charged to attend.
Mainstreaming offerings at local public schools
We offer Iowa’s only transition-to-work/college program exclusively for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Advantages to Enrolling at ISD
For many of our students, firsts happen at Iowa School for the Deaf. First best friends. First birthday party invitations. First time playing in a sport. First time feeling truly included, both inside and outside the classroom.
Many of our students find it easier to participate in class discussion with our specialized teaching staff. Often, Iowa School for the Deaf parents notice their children are more confident about themselves and are now joining sports and activities without hesitation.
Activities, clubs & sports for all interests
Students gain real-life experience, leadership skills and make friends through a variety of activities and athletics at Iowa School for the Deaf. More than 90% of middle school and high school students choose to participate in at least one after school activity.
Post-high school preparation
Planning for life after high school starts with middle school career awareness at Iowa School for the Deaf. As students age, more career exploration is offered, such as:
- Career interest surveys, worksite field trips, guest presenters and job shadows
- On-campus jobs
- Meeting with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselor, officed part-time on campus (students start services at 14 years old)
- Smooth post-high school transitions, may it be back home or wherever the future leads
- 4PLUS, a free transition program for students with unmet transition needs, even those who have not previously attended ISD
The earlier children experience a language-rich environment, the stronger their vocabulary and communication skills will be. This leads to ultimately narrowing the learning gap between them and their hearing peers. Families choose a preschool schedule that is right for them, from daily attendance to attendance a few days a week.
The early childhood education teacher uses curriculum which aligns with national preschool standards. Activities focus on language development, socialization, gross/fine motor skills and self-help skills, along with plenty of rest and play.
In addition to academic classes routinely found in public school programs, students in Iowa School for the Deaf’s elementary school are offered art, speech therapy, language, American Sign Language, library, physical education and guidance. Small class sizes allow teachers to address diverse needs of the students who rotate classrooms for all subjects. This increases independence and organization skills.
Curriculum is taught on grade level with modifications provided as needed. Activities open to elementary school students include student council, girls’ and boys’ clubs and sports teams which compete with other city youth teams.
Middle & High School
Students are challenged to use critical thinking, imagination and creativity in classes. Staff help foster skills and attitudes within each student leading to positive self-esteem and self-advocacy. Aside from classes typically offered in public high school programs, a transition focus prepares students for life outside of high school, both in the worlds of work and college. Some students mainstream at Lewis Central High School (located across the street) with an Iowa School for the Deaf interpreter. The semester system is used at Iowa School for the Deaf and each credit equals one semester of class. Iowa School for the Deaf students meet Iowa’s required criteria to graduate, as determined by the Iowa Department of Education. Extracurricular activities range from sports to clubs and events.
Post-High School (4PLUS)
Iowa School for the Deaf provides programming for post-seniors with unmet transition needs. We offer extra support as deaf or hard of hearing students look for jobs or take classes at a local community college.
After School Programs
When offered, in the We Explore our Environment (WEE) program, ISD’s youngest students focus on social and language skills. These students do not live on campus, and do not even need to be enrolled at ISD to participate. Rather than go to a daycare or straight home after school, these students can experience an extended 90 minutes which complements their development in a fun atmosphere.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) program is geared toward middle school students. This program typically meets twice a week after school for 90 minutes. The focus is on educational activities in the content areas of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. There are thousands of potential careers and jobs in the STEAM fields, and ISD aims to provide these students with a taste of their potential futures.
ISD elementary students (and area youth who are deaf but do not attend ISD) start building foundational skills in sports through this program. Practice for basketball and volleyball teams is held on ISD’s campus, with ISD coaches. Teams play against other youth teams in the local YMCA. The environment is fun and relaxed. Practices and games are based on season and availability.
Visit our Activities & Clubs page for a comprehensive list of sports, clubs and other activities.