- Please tell us your name.
Peter J. Seiler
- Are you Deaf? Hard of Hearing? Other?
I consider myself Deaf.
- What mode or modes of communication do you use?
I am fluent in both English and American Sign Language. While I do prefer to use sign language, I can use my voice and do use lipreading when necessary.
- Please tell us about your experience in school. What schools did you attend for elementary school, high school and college? What did you like and dislike about those schools?
I first attended Parker Elementary School, Deaf Oral Program, in Chicago. I started there at the age of 3 years. My parents were not satisfied with the way I was learning so they took me out and put me in a regular school. At that time, no one told them about the Illinois School for the Deaf. I remained in regular school program with no support services. My parents gave me one-on-one teaching every day after school. I applied for Gallaudet University but was turned down so I went to a hearing college, again without support services (this is back in the 60’s); there I got my BA in English. I got my MA from DePaul University and my doctorate from Illinois State University.
I did not enjoy my experiences in the regular classes but I did enjoy being on the varsity wrestling teams for both my high school and college. The kids were ruthless towards me and made me feel inferior. It was hard for me to understand why I didn’t know some information but was not stupid. I also did not like it that I was the only Deaf kid in school. Once I learned to sign and entered the Deaf community, then I began to feel comfortable with who I am. Fortunately my parents made me feel normal and often said that my being Deaf was simply an extension of myself. They were the ones who continually reinforced a positive self-image.
- Please tell us about your work experiences. What is your current job? What other jobs have you held? What was your favorite job?
My first job was to clean inside a Mom & Pop grocery store once a week. I also delivered newspapers for several years. Then I moved up to working in a hospital laundry department (that is truly a humbling experience!). I worked for a few years in a dairy (milk bottling plant) and did enjoy that job because my ability to lipread in a noisy environment made me a favorite with my foreman (I could lipread across the plant floor and then tell the message to the appropriate person). From there I became a teacher of English and reading at a school for the deaf and at a mainstream school program. While working on my doctorate, I taught at a teacher training program. I became a school administrator (department chair, principal, and superintendent). I also served as an administrator at a state agency. Now I am retired and doing a lot of volunteer work.
- Please tell us about your hobbies and interests.
I enjoy biking, running, and hiking on trails. I also love reading.
- Please tell us anything else you would like to share about yourself or your family. For example: Are other members of your family Deaf or Hard of Hearing? Are you married, do you have children?
I have one aunt who is Deaf and does not use signs. My children are hearing as is my wife.
- What advice do you have for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their families?
I believe that the road to success lies in being able to read inductively and deductively. I strongly encourage parents to use sign language with their children even if they can talk and lipread. I am a believer of bilinqual education for our deaf and hard of hearing children.
I also believe that parents need to be their child’s advocates. That helps the child become a good self-advocate later in life.