Spotlight Saturday, Naomi Berkenbilt, LCSW-C, Gateway School Social Worker - Hearing and Speech Agency

Spotlight Saturday, Naomi Berkenbilt, LCSW-C, Gateway School Social Worker

What drew you to HASA originally? My daughter was born deaf. When she was 6 months old, I attended a Zadek Family Education Program through HASA for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children to express their wants and needs. I wanted a parent support group and HASA said they could try to form one. A few months later, I found out HASA was in need of a social worker. I applied, telling the team I would run that support group.

How long have you been affiliated with HASA and in what capacity? I became the social worker for Gateway School in January 2002. I have been affiliated since that time. I primarily work for the Gateway School as the social worker, but I am also the proud parent of Rachael Stetina who was in the first graduating class of the Little Ears Big Voices program. Furthermore, she has received FM assistance and ear molds through audiology and several levels of speech pathology including reading tutoring. Rachael has primarily graduated from the services offered at HASA but may enroll in ASL classes if time permits in her busy high school schedule.

What is your favorite memory with HASA? So many to choose from! That question is not fair. A favorite early memory is when I assisted a deaf family who brought their cousin from Honduras who spoke no English. Until the ASL interpreter was able to arrive, I translated a therapist's English to ASL and to Spanish. Somehow we got our points across. However, later memories include the incredible gains my Gateway students have made throughout the years. The beauty of hearing my daughter's voice become clear at Gateway and watching other students progress through the program from toddler-hood to graduation has been extraordinary. Visiting former students at other schools has also created extraordinary memories.

What's the one thing you want people to know about HASA? HASA has always been a great place to work if you like to work on a trans-disciplinary team. At Gateway Special Educators, Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists, our Psychologist and Social Worker all work together with teachers and instructional assistants to make the best possible program for our kids and for ourselves.

What are three words to describe HASA? Dedicated, innovative, hard-working

What is your favorite word? Papaya - Why? It's fun to say. nothing else. Humor is a good thing.

What do you like most about HASA? The supportive working environment. At Gateway we have each other's back. We work together as a team. We have several responsibilities and innovation is rewarded. Working on multidisciplinary teams has kept me engaged and growing.

What have you gained from being affiliated with HASA? I have been here for over 15 years. I have learned a whole new way of being and learning. I have grown to learning how to be a leader, but I have also learned a lot about special education, and what makes everything run together smoothly.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us. Before studying social work, I wanted to be the next Jane Goodall, go to Africa and study chimps in their natural environment.

Hearing and Speech AgencyHarry and Jeanette Weinberg Building 5900 Metro Drive Baltimore, MD 21215 410.318.6780