KaAnn Varner

First Deaf Female Superintendent

The Oklahoma School for the Deaf is the only deaf school in the nation that operates on a four day week program. Under Superintendent Varner's leadership, the program has enhanced. School enrollment is increasing, test scores are increasing thereby ensuring a very high graduation rate. OSD believes in being proactive. The move towards a four day progrm enabled OSD to be proactive and positive in every aspect of the educational process.

Last Update: March 18, 2013
KaAnn Varner will lead the school, which was founded in 1897. She's only the second deaf superintendent.

Varner said she has big plans for the school, and she hopes her work will be an inspiration to deaf and hard of hearing students.

“I think they will be excited to see that,” Varner said. “I think they will know that a deaf person can be in a leadership position, that a deaf person can be anything they want.”

Diagnosed at 6

Doctors suspect Varner went deaf sometime between ages 2 and 4 but wasn't officially diagnosed until age 6. Her grandmother was the one who figured out something was wrong.

Varner spent the day with her grandmother as a child while her parents worked. Her grandmother let Varner watch a little television. She told Varner to tell her when the volume was loud enough on the old black and white set, but it was never loud enough.

Varner's condition is hereditary. Her daughter, Shannon, started losing her hearing at age 6, and the 10-year-old will eventually attend the Oklahoma School for the Deaf. Varner's 13-year-old son, Caleb, can hear.

Varner attended her hometown school in Ardmore, Ala. The nearest school for the deaf was six hours away. Because she could hear for a few years, she was able to talk. Doctors said if she used sign language, she'd forget how to speak, so teachers didn't allow her to learn how to sign.

Now experts know that sign language adds to a person's communication arsenal, Varner said. It doesn't erase the ability to speak.

“I did get a good education,” she said. “I had A's in almost everything. They had no idea what to do with me. They had no idea.”

After high school, Varner spent two years living at home and attending a community college. She went on to the University of Montevallo, south of Birmingham, Ala. She earned her bachelor's in teaching children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

She taught in Alabama and Arkansas, where she eventually met her husband, Tommy. They married and moved to his home state of Oklahoma. Tommy is the football coach and athletic director at Oklahoma School for the Deaf.

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