Julie Stewart: Bringing the Classroom Perspective to OCALI’s Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness

Julie Stewart, Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness

No stranger to the classroom, Julie Stewart uses her 12 years of past experiences as a classroom teacher and educational consultant working with deaf and hard of hearing students to help increase successful outcomes in her work at OCALI.

As an Outreach Specialist for OCALI’s Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness, Julie works to connect resources and foster relationships to equip communities to support families and learners where they are, with what they need, when they need it.

“The transition from the classroom to working at OCALI has inspired a lot of professional growth. While I may not have direct contact with students in my current role, I am impacting school environments in a different way. And, ultimately, when schools are positively impacted, students are positively impacted.”

One of the things that Julie enjoys most about working at the Outreach Center is the opportunity to experience new perspectives and dive more deeply into students’ learning needs.

“Understanding a child’s individual needs is so important. For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, communication and language are critical to their learning. When approaching a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), it’s important for families and school teams to discuss information about the student’s language, communication, and access. It’s not just about having access, it’s about ensuring meaningful access for all students.”

The Outreach Center has created a free resource, the Communication Planning Guide for Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, to help schools and families to facilitate these important conversations.

Group of people sitting around table talking
Julie Stewart (far right) helped organize the Engage for Change Columbus event to bring community members together to discuss ideas, strengthen networks, and create change.

Engage for Change Columbus
A recent event that Julie helped to organize is Engage for Change Columbus. Arranged nationally by the National Deaf Center, Engage for Change Columbus is one of twelve events hosted around the country to engage a diverse group of stakeholders to create change at multiple levels of the system: local, state, and national. Local events are designed for attendees to share ideas, strengthen community networks, propose solutions, and create systemic change. The Columbus event was held in October and hosted in partnership with OCALI, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, and the Ohio School for the Deaf.

“Engage for Change was a great opportunity to network and partner with so many people—from those who are deaf to educators, community members, parents, disability rights organizations, and others. It was wonderful to hear everyone come together to discuss secondary transition services for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Real conversations with real people make for a powerful event and we hope to grow this event next year.”

In her free time, Julie enjoys traveling with her husband of 22 years and her daughter. The family is planning a trip to Zaleski State Park later this spring, along with a trip to Canada to visit family. Julie’s love of traveling started in her earlier days when she studied abroad in Russia. During that time, Julie lived with a deaf family and was completely immersed in Russian culture and sign language. Her travels abroad have also taken her to Europe and China.