Megan Burgess: ‘It Drives Me To Work Harder’

October 24, 2016

At only 25-years-old, Bermudian educator Megan Burgess has already gained three college degrees and works as a teacher in Washington DC, and says being a Deaf individual is a gift, as it drives her to “work harder” and she is proud to be a role model for Deaf children as she is “showing what they are capable of if they work really hard.”

Ms. Burgess says she wants to return to Bermuda someday, saying “when I do return, I want to shake the grounds of Deaf education,” and “make it positive rather than negative.”

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Ms. Burgess explained, “I was born healthy and hearing. It was Thanksgiving day that year. It didn’t occur til I was 2 years old and I had spinal meningitis. After the fever, I became Deaf.

“There are different kinds of hearing loss; mine was an inner ear hearing loss where my cochlear didn’t work nor rather translate sound to the brain. I cannot hear below 90 dBz. I took an audiology class as part of my graduate classes so I know a bit about my own hearing loss from that class.

“There are about 90% Deaf children of hearing parents in America and they have never met a Deaf person nor are aware of Deaf culture. Most of those children are deprived of their native language. Luckily my parents made the decision to use sign language.

“It is my native language, but so is English. I didn’t realize til later in my life that I was a bilingual person.

In describing her educational experience on the island, Ms Burgess said: “I went to Northlands Primary School then onto Dellwood Middle School. All these years, I had one interpreter and her name was Mrs. Faison. I only attended CedarBridge Academy for two years. I truly enjoyed my childhood on the island.

“I had friends and took so many different classes and camps growing up. I always taught my friends how to sign and gave them sign names. In Deaf culture, people get a sign based on their personality. That honour is only bestowed on the hearing person by a Deaf person.”

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“Aside from Mrs. Faison, I had Mrs. Jennifer Fahnbulleh, who was my teacher for the Deaf and is the president of the Bermuda Island Association for the Deaf.

“She was presented at every IEP meeting and helped tutor me, especially in math. I was really fortunate to have her guidance; she helped me through a lot of things and also help guide my family as well.

Saying her family is “amazing,” Ms Burgess said, “I don’t think I would be here today without them. They are a strong part of the foundation that I walk my future on. When I think about my family, I have to say I am lucky for them.”

“It must have been such a big change for them and they tried the best they could. I am so very glad they were open-minded and wanted what was the best for me. I know I constantly make them proud and have gone beyond their expectations. I’m just really glad they were on this long journey with me.”

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After attaining three college degrees, Mr Burgess got a job at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, DC.

“I think my motivation is what drove me the most towards completing my three degrees,” she added.

“By the point I got to my first masters, I realized I wasn’t ready, even after a year and two internships. I wanted more time. Also the field of Deaf education is widely a bilingual education, I felt that the first master’s program didn’t offer that so I enrolled for my second master’s. Teaching Deaf children requires visual strategies.

“After I graduated, I did get an interview with Model Secondary School for the Deaf and waited for almost over a month until I finally was offered the job. Just a little faith and some positivity helped me through this entire process.

“I also had a professional portfolio that I did during my first master’s degree, it was a class that I took to promote myself as a teacher. I took pictures of myself teaching during my many internships and just put them together using InDesign software. I was able to show a creative side of myself that was the advantage of being an artist.”

When asked about her plans for the future, Ms. Burgess said, “My plans for my future professionally is to keep on challenging myself and reflect myself as a teacher. Sometimes somethings may not work and I may have to find the time to figure out why it doesn’t work.

“I also want to focus on improving awareness of the arts in the school itself. I’m hoping for an art showcase annually showing different students’ work. I think it would be nice at the near end of the school year, students can feel proud and confident in themselves.

“Even if they’re not going on to become an artist in the future, I believe it is powerful to have some kind of positive influence on the students’ lives.”

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“My goal personally for the future is just to live in the present. I just moved to a new city full of history and museums. I think I want to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. I want to explore and try different things. I want to sign up for some art classes or just some new hobby I want to learn. I want to constantly feel inspired.

Asked whether she ever plans to return home, she said: “I do want to return to Bermuda someday. I’m not sure when, but when I do return, I want to shake the grounds of Deaf education. There is so much that needs to be changed.

“I also want to change and promote Deaf education and make it positive rather than negative. More like guiding the Deaf children on the island and support them rather than trying to fix their hearing and make them perfect [i.e. moving from a focus on speech therapy and audiology to more positive identity and culture.]

When asked what role being Deaf has played in her life when it comes to education and her personal life, Ms Burgess told Bernews, ”I think my role as being a Deaf individual is a gift. It drives me to work harder than anybody.

“I have to be a step ahead of every hearing individual and it has got me to where I want to be today. In education, I am a role model for those young Deaf children because I am showing what they are capable of if they work really hard.

“In my personal life, deafness has drove me to be more positive. Sure, I do have my awkward moments in public when everyone is staring at me and I look around to find someone’s mouth wide open, yelling at me. I just simply laugh and tell them, “I’m Deaf, how can I help you?”. Their faces sometimes are astounded.

“Of course, not everyone meets a Deaf person, so I don’t easily hold a grudge and curse them for being so close minded. I just easily go with the flow. I do not ever let anything stop me just because I’m Deaf. I am so proud of who I am.

“I owe it all to my family,” Ms Burgess adds.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Thinker says:

    Good for yo Megan and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!

  2. Mare says:

    What a beautiful story.
    What a beautiful lady.
    And what wonderful parents she has that encouraged her to be the beautiful person she is.

    Good luck, Megan. You have a lot to offer the world.

  3. Katrina Caines says:

    Congrats to you Megan! You have grown into a very mature individual. When you do decide to come back home you will be a great asset to the Bermuda community. I’m looking forward to hearing more wonderful things about you as you strive to continue to develop both personally and professionally. Great job parents for giving her this awesome opportunity.

  4. Dangel says:

    Congratulations Megan!! I am so very proud of you. I used to work with your Mom so I am aware of the commitment from your parents. Juliana & Walter you are to be commended for your love and support for your daughter.


  5. Proud Bermudian says:

    How WONDERFUL!!!!!

  6. Thumbs up says:

    I remember taking a sign language course at the same time you lost your hearing, and several of your family members attended. They were determined to make your life as easy as possible. So nice to see how you’ve grown!

  7. And There's Hope says:

    Well done Megan..,

  8. IslandTeacher says:

    A great story, well done for all that Hard work and aspiration.

  9. Joy Symonds says:

    Megan Congratulations! You are a star and a testament to what hard work and committment yield in the lives of our young people. I love your analogy of your hearing impairment as a gift. Your faith and love and committment from your family is certain. Juliana and Walter you should be immensely proud of your beautiful,fierce,trailblazer daughter.Please keep us posted in your journey

  10. Helle Patterson says:

    What a wonderful child you produced, Judy and Walter Burgess! You were both delightful students back in your Northlands Secondary schooldays, and you grew into great parents to Megan. She is doing so splendidly she must have surpassed all your expectations, and that is a truly exhilarating feeling.

  11. Susan E. Fox says:

    Congratulations Megan.
    I remember when you attended Devonshire Preschool in Bermuda. Your parents were truly great advocates for you. It is so nice to see how your life has turned out. You have persevered and conquered challenges along the way and strive to continue learning. I’m sure you are a great teacher and will instill these same qualities in your students because you “live and walked in their shoes.”
    I wish you many many blessings for years to come. Remember these words, “What you are, is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself, is your gift to God.” You are a gift! Congratulations again.