Children of Peace honors deaf student program
March 4, 2017

Arlene Redmond (left) and Phyllis Winter (right) will be honored for their years of service to Children of Peace School on March 31. They are shown with Elaine Schuster, former superintendent of Catholic School for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

By Igor Studenkov

Children of Peace Roman Catholic School on March 31 will honor Phyllis Winter and Arlene Redmond for their contributions to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s only K-8 school for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Winter, the program’s first teacher, remains involved. Redmond joined the school as a teacher in 1979 and went on to become program supervisor. Those who worked with them speak highly of both women, lauding them for their dedication and advocacy for children and their care.

Children of Peace is located at 1900 W. Taylor St. and was established in 1994 as a merger of Holy Trinity, St. Callistus, Our Lady of Pompei, and Holy Family schools. Its school for the deaf and hard of hearing was a carryover from Holy Trinity.

As Winter recalled, in the 1950s she was teaching at St. Teresa of Avila parish school in Lincoln Park when “there was a letter put out through Catholic Charities, asking for teachers who may be interested in working with children who have disabilities. I was just very interested in finding out where I could fit in.”

The Archdiocese would pay the teachers for training at Loyola University Chicago. Winter hoped to be able to teach deaf children, and officials accepted her request. The Rev. John Marron of Holy Trinity offered two classrooms for teaching deaf and blind students. The program for blind youngsters soon moved to another school, while the deaf program grew, eventually taking up seven classrooms.

Redmond joins Winter

Winter eventually became program head, and when one of her teachers left unexpectedly in 1978, she hired Arlene Redmond, a child of deaf parents.

As Redmond described it, entering regular elementary school was like a Spanish-speaking child getting dropped into an English speaking classroom.

“Sign language for me was my native language, but that skill does not count in an English-speaking environment,” she said. The biggest issue was learning how to read. Despite the difficulties, Redmond said the effort paid off, opening up a new world to her. That experience made her want to become a teacher.

“Language can be expressed in many ways, including spoken language, sign language, written words, and pictures,” Redmond said. “This is the approach that I strongly encourage in teaching deaf students since options are given as to what fits best with the student’s learning style. I did not have that option when being forced to learn phonics as the primary way to learn how to read.”

Over the next 16 years, Redmond taught both deaf and hearing students at Holy Trinity. When
officials created Children of Peace School, Winter became principal, while Redmond became campus director. When Winter retired in 2001, Redmond took her place, serving for the next six years. Winter remains involved with the program, volunteering to this day.

Changes in educating the deaf

During their time with the program, deaf education changed in many ways, but both agree the biggest change was the cochlear implant, which became available in the 1990s. The device replaces the function of the damaged inner ear, allowing many—but not all—deaf children to hear sounds.

In some cases, children still cannot, for medical reasons, use the implant, or choose not to, Winter said. Overall, however, the number of children who need specialized programs for the deaf has dropped considerably. Children of Peace now serves only 22 deaf children. Redmond’s successor, principal Clair Zaffaroni, made another change in 2016. All youngsters attending Children of Peace—hearing and deaf— learn sign language.

Winter said she has seen this in action, and she is delighted. Zaffaroni joined Children of Peace as a teacher, when Winter was still principal. She said Redmond encouraged her to aim higher, which led her down the path of becoming a principal. “Dedication to children is definitely what they both exemplify— working with children and encouraging us to get the best out of the children and making sure that everyone is included, making sure that everybody is welcome,” Zaffaroni said.

Esther Hicks, director of Catholic school identity and mission at the Archdiocese, credited them with keeping the program going. Winter’s “work was very conscientious in that regard, as was Arlene Redmond’s,” Hicks said. “The stamina to keep that program going in times that were very challenging, raising money for that kind of work, that kind of service.”

Peter Butler, a former executive at Rush University Medical Center, served with Redmond on the board of the Science and Math Excellence network.

“This relationship led to my wife and others associated with Rush to participate on the Children of Peace advisory board,” Butler said. “We marveled at the dedication and unwavering passion Arlene and Phyllis brought to the development and support of children, especially those with hearing impairments.”

The school will honor the pair at an invitation-only event at the 500 Club at Rush at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 31. Call (312) 243-8186.