Hadley Instructor Geraldine Lawhorn Named 2011 Winnetka Teacher of the Year

Geraldine Lawhorn, an instructor at The Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka, has been recognized as the 2011 Winnetka Teacher of the Year by the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce. Lawhorn has been an instructor at The Hadley School for the Blind for more than 40 years. At 94, she is still teaching Hadley's "Elements of Poetry" course, having taught "Independent Living without Sight or Hearing" for Hadley in the past.

Lawhorn lost her sight around the age of 12 and her hearing at 19. Born in Dayton, Ohio, she graduated with honors from Marshall High School in Chicago and then studied drama and music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and the Carnegie Building in New York City. She was the first African-American deaf-blind person to earn a college degree, receiving her bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University in 1983.

An accomplished actor, poet and pianist, she performed monologues at Carnegie Hall and appeared on a number of television programs, including Someone You Should Know in Chicago, The Phil Donahue Show, Good Morning America and Ripley's Believe It or Not. Lawhorn has received numerous awards and honors, including the "Show Business" Magazine Award, induction into the Disabled Persons Hall of Fame of the City of Chicago, The Hadley School's Challenge of Living Award and the Anne Sullivan Macy Award for her artistic endeavors. Her autobiography, On Different Roads, was published in 1991.

Lawhorn has been treasurer of LeCOBDA, the Club of Blind-Deaf Adults in Chicago, for a number of years. She also served on the Illinois Advisory Board for Services for Persons Who are Deaf-Blind, appointed by past Illinois Governor James Thompson.

She uses a variety of techniques to communicate with others, including the one-hand manual technique, which uses the sign language alphabet "spoken" in the hand of someone who is deaf-blind. She also uses a Tellatouch, a typewriter machine which types braille. Lawhorn stresses the importance of family in helping people who are deaf-blind and credits her own independence to the encouragement she received from her mother at a young age.

"I was surprised, delighted and emotional when I learned that I was named the 2011 Winnetka Teacher of the Year. Working for Hadley has been an honor, and I am thrilled to have been nominated and chosen," says Lawhorn.

Ms. Lawhorn will be honored at the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber's 35th Annual Recognition Lunch on Wednesday, May 4 at 11 a.m. at the Winnetka Community House.