Two sisters break through silence

June 01, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Lisa and Marjorie Bone sat in the reading room in the Hoover Library at Western Maryland College looking at one another and laughing as they held a silent conversation using their fingers to form the words.

But their enthusiasm about understanding and educating deaf children spoke volumes.

"I have always wanted to be a teacher, even when I was a young child," Lisa signed to her sister, Marjorie. Lisa, 26, lost her hearing after a bout with spinal meningitis when she was 13 months old.

"I wanted to be a teacher for the deaf because I never had any deaf teachers and I wanted the kids to have a deaf teacher," she said. "I think it is important for them to have role models."

After receiving their master's degrees in deaf education from Western Maryland College on May 22, Lisa and Marjorie are on their way to becoming role models to young people -- hearing or deaf.

Their dedication to the hearing-impaired began when Lisa lost her hearing and every member of the Bone family learned how to sign.

"I've been signing since I was about 2 years old," said Marjorie, 24. She said her father, Jesse, a Methodist minister, learned at a school in Minnesota.

Their mother, Mary Bone, a former deaf educator, helped her children learn as well. Marjorie and her brothers, Jesse Jr., 33, and David, 23 -- a lawyer and a restaurant manager, respectively -- had help from Lisa, who was learning to sign in school.

Since Marjorie attended public school in their North Carolina hometown while Lisa was educated in schools for the deaf, the educational paths of the two sisters never crossed before graduate school.

They even chose separate undergraduate schools. Lisa went to Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., while Marjorie stayed near home at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

It was after Marjorie completed her undergraduate degree in fine arts that she realized she wanted to become a deaf educator.

"After I graduated college, I was working and I didn't like what I was doing. I decide I wanted to go into a helping field," said Marjorie. "Deaf education was the first thing that came to mind because of my sister."

Lisa was already on that track, having earned a bachelor's degree in communications. She told Marjorie about the graduate program at Western Maryland College.

"We were both interested in it. She was up at Gallaudet and I was in North Carolina and she said this school [WMC] was good," Marjorie said. "We just decided at the same time we wanted to go into it [the graduate program]."

Both women said they can bring a significant perspective to deaf education.

"I think it's very important for children to have a teacher who understands the deaf culture. I think they can have a better relationship with the teacher that way," Lisa said. "I can remember things that have happened to me in my experience and be better able to serve their needs and help them."

"And I grew up understanding and interacting with my sister, so I can bring that to the children, too," Marjorie added.

Lisa said the encouragement she received during her formative school years has influenced her decision to teach.

"Maybe that's why I am so enthusiastic to go into teaching because no one ever said 'no,' that I couldn't do something," Lisa said. "I was told I could do anything I wanted to and I was always encouraged. I want to do that for others."

At this point, the sisters' career paths will diverge once more. Marjorie is returning to North Carolina to get a degree in audiology. Lisa will continue living in Laurel while she student teaches at the Maryland School for the Deaf to earn her certification.

But neither sister has lost hope that they will one day work together for the benefit of deaf children.

"I like North Carolina and she likes Maryland, so I don't see that happening," said Marjorie of working with her sister. "But if it happens we could work together, it would be great."

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