Ramas Rentelis: My Education Journey as a Deaf Learner

RamasRentalisMy name is Ramas Rentelis. I am profoundly Deaf. I use a number of sign languages such as BSL, Lithuanian, Russian, French, American, Australian and International sign languages. I am Lithuanian, however I have lived in the UK for 8 years and now hold dual Lithuanian/British citizenship. I am currently living and travelling in Australia. I have finished three university degrees: A Bachelor degree at Vilnius Pedagogical University, Primary in Education (Lithuania), a Postgraduate Diploma at Durham University, Interpreting in Deaf Community (UK) and a Master of Science at Bristol University, Deafhood (UK).

I work as a teacher at Victorian College for the Deaf in Melbourne, Australia. I teach English as a Secondary Language to students who have migrated from other countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. Additionally, I am a PE teacher and I organize the 1st Prahran Deaf Scout Group. I am very passionate about sport and play basketball for Deaf Melbourne City team. I have been involved previously with the Great Britain Deaf basketball team.

I am interested in education within the context of a school for the Deaf, and am particularly passionate about bilingual education. I strongly believe that bilingual education will support deaf learners to achieve their educational goals (i.e. in higher education) IF teachers use bilingual methodologies appropriately (e.g. separate signed/spoken languages). I have done some research into bilingual methods used in Sweden, (a country on the forefront of bilingual education). In Sweden, it was found that students who were educated in bilingual settings made greater achievements (in terms of entry into higher education programs) than students who were educated using oral methods.

Breaking down barriers

I have been a Deaf learner for over 30 years – from birth to now. My educational journey included both positive and negative experiences. I attended a Deaf school at Vilnius, Lithuania, where the education method adopted for some time was oral. Around half of my schooling was conducted during a period where only oral methods were used, and I was not allowed to use my beautiful sign language. I was, however, lucky, as I have deaf parents; this meant I had access to sign language (at home, at Deaf clubs, etc.). I was, admittedly, somewhat of a rebel at the Deaf school, in that I was outspoken in my support of sign language being the true language of Deaf people and the most appropriate language through which they should access curriculum.

After school I, along with a few other Deaf students, applied to Vilnius Pedagogical University. The university refused to accept our application forms on the grounds that we were Deaf. This was the first time that Deaf students had applied to study at that university. A meeting was set up with the University Senator. Fortunately, he believed in us and accepted our application forms and eventually we were accepted into the university.

My first day at university was a nightmare for me. I was with an interpreter for my first lecture. The lecturer entered the classroom and began her lecture, however when she saw the interpreter she stopped the class. The lecturer began asking me questions such as, ‘Why are you in the class? How can you study at University being Deaf? Can Deaf people read and write?’ She then made an appointment to meet the University senator to clarify whether or not Deaf people had the right to attend the University.

This gave me even more motivation to study and prove my doubters wrong – that Deaf people can study in higher education settings. At my graduation ceremony, the University senator congratulated me. The University continues to allow Deaf people to study there.

Fight for what you believe in

My BA thesis was about Bilingual Methods in Sweden and Lithuanian Deaf Education. My Postgraduate Diploma thesis investigated Deaf native and non-native BSL productive skills and Master of Science thesis addressed BSL mouth patterns from London and Glasgow.

I believe that my experience and my own educational journey helps me relate to my students and better equip them with skills they might need to overcome their own challenges in their learning.

Deaf Education in higher education settings today is much more accessible than for previous generations (like my mum’s). Higher education institutions provide sign language interpreters and note takers. During my BA degree, I was allowed only one interpreter. When the interpreter was absent I had no access to that lecture.  At the present time, Universities are much more open to having Deaf people apply and study. I am, however, aware that there are still issues and struggles for Deaf students to overcome in terms of equality of access.

You should never, ever give up your dream and fight for what you believe in.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about ‘having a dream’… “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” I have the same dream, but it is a Deaf dream.

Ramas Rentelis is a teacher, Postgraduate Diploma graduate, and fluent in a number of different sign languages. He works in Melbourne, Australia, at Victorian College for the Deaf, teaching English as a Secondary Language to students who have migrated from other countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. He is also a PE teacher and organizes the 1st Prahran Deaf Scout Group; he is passionate about sport and plays basketball for Deaf Melbourne City Team. 

4 thoughts on "Ramas Rentelis: My Education Journey as a Deaf Learner"

  1. Elsa Auer says:

    What an inspiring story! My son is profoundly deaf and went to a state school with teacher’s of the deaf and students with other disabilities. We learnt sign language when we found out he was deaf and realised that would be the most effective mode of communication for him. He was never stopped from having a go at anything and played lots of sport. At present he has a deaf partner and they own their own business. I am amazed at what he has achieved in his short life and can’t wait for him to be a dad as I am sure he will make a wonderful father! Deaf people can do anything!!

  2. Joanne Swinbourne says:

    A truly inspiring article. As a fellow Deaf Teacher of the Deaf and English Teacher here in the UK, I would love to meet you one day. I still get emotional when thinking about your “goodbye” to Vitalis. A true poet.

  3. Rolana Mo says:

    Proud of you, I know you never give up..

  4. Emma says:

    Hey Ramas! Best wishes for you from germany. Very inspiring and interessting lifestory!
    Keep going. Emma and Angelina Rentelis 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *