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Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind celebrates 150 years with historic superintendent at the helm

Tera Spangler is the school's first superintendent who is deaf.
Tera Spangler
Posted at 3:09 PM, Jun 06, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — With picturesque Pikes Peak in the background, the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind (CSDB) has a sprawling campus that was established in 1874 — before Colorado was a state.

This year marks 150 years of the school, which provides education and support to students from birth until the age of 21. The school hit another milestone this year, with its first superintendent who is deaf assuming the position.

Tera Spangler started as a teacher at the school in 2006. She's held several different roles, including a teacher of the deaf in the elementary school program, curriculum coordinator, principal, and director of curriculum assessment. Spangler served as the interim superintendent for almost two years before officially moving into the position in the last few months.

“It's an honor to work here and to be able to provide students with an environment where they can thrive," Spangler said through a translator. “I have worked here for so long. You know, some of the students here, they were babies when I started here as a teacher... For them to have someone that they can look up to as a role model, someone who has experienced the same things they have experienced, is very important.”

Spangler grew up in a small Iowa town and was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 10. As a result of the illness, she lost her hearing.

"It was a very rare cancer for children at that time, so I'm not exactly sure what caused the hearing loss. It could have been a very high fever. It could have been chemo, as a result of chemo. It could have been a variety of reasons. But for sure, a hearing loss at that time. Within about two years, I was profoundly deaf," Spangler explained. “I just remember being really frustrated, honestly, during that time. I was getting ready to start middle school. Middle school is hard enough.”

Spangler was the only person who was deaf in her entire school, so she understands the importance of CSDB students having the opportunity to connect and bond with others who share the same language and identity.

“When I was 10, when I was 15, I would have never, in my dreams, would I have thought that I would be sitting here today where I am and doing what I'm doing," said Spangler. “One of the priorities is to make sure that our students who are deaf, blind, and deaf-blind, all over the state of Colorado, that they know what programs are available. And that school districts also know what programs are available here at CSDB.”

The superintendent hopes her own story serves as an inspiration to the roughly 170 students who attend the school currently.

“They can do whatever they want. They can become anything. There's no ceiling. There's no limitation to their potential," said Spangler. "I want them to know they can make an impact on the world. That they can, that they will, that they should."

CSDB is a state-operated program, and there is no tuition required for eligible students. Spangler said the school is free for families and free to districts that have students who attend.

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