Someone You Should Know: Thirty-five years in deaf education

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 5:22 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Kim Wadsworth knew a long time ago she wanted to work in deaf education.

“I grew up in Stickney, South Dakota. Then by fourth grade, I knew I wanted to teach the deaf. I have a cousin who is a little bit older than I am and is profoundly deaf, uses sign language. And we’d have family get-togethers all the time, and not all of our family members could communicate,” said Kim.

With the help of family and on her own, Kim learned sign language.

“I just loved it. And then I went to Augustana College because they had a four-year program for deaf education-elementary education. It was the only place in the state that had that program,” said Kim.

That would lead to a thirty-five-year career in deaf education — most of those at the South Dakota School for the Deaf. The past three were as the superintendent.

“We work with kids who have a unilateral loss — one ear is affected all the way — to profound loss. So there’s a variety on that spectrum there. What works for one child may not work for another child. Each child is unique. It was a challenge to help the parents feel like, ‘I got this. I know what I’m doing.’ They can do everything except hear, and the number one goal is access. So wherever they are in their home environment, in their school environment, out in the community, we want each child to have access. Because how else are you going to learn language? If you are using sign language, you need to see a fluent ASL interpreter in your classroom. You need to have parents who sign. If they use hearing aids or implants, then you have to make sure that their hearing aids and implants are working top-notch. It’s a challenge, but you’re there supporting and just being a partner in educational success. That’s kind of what our mission statement says,” said Kim.

Kim recently decided it was time to step away. She’ll retire in May.

“I think it’s time just to focus more on my family, our parents, our kids. To get in a little more traveling, more of a flexible schedule, I guess. And I think, too, that I feel real confident that I can pass the baton, and SDSD can keep on trucking,” said Kim

“It will be very challenging to see Kim leave. I think it’s going to be hard on everyone, all of her co-workers, the children that she impacted across the state of South Dakota,” said Julie Luke.

“She always puts children first. You always know when you go to her that she’s going to do what she needs to do to help all kids who are deaf and hard of hearing across the state of South Dakota,” said Kami Van Sickle.

That cousin who inspired her into this career as a kid is still in her life.

“He’s in Sioux Falls. He works at Sioux Steel for many, many years. I have a video phone in my office, and usually every Friday he’s off, so we usually connect on Fridays to chit-chat and see how things are going,” said Kim.

SDSU has begun the search for Kim’s replacement.