CES teacher named UM Outstanding Alumna

Published 2:08 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Clanton Elementary School special education teacher Alissa Helfinstine was presented the Outstanding Alumna Award for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education by the University of Montevallo College of Education earlier this month.

“I was honored and very excited,” Helfinstine said.

The award came as a surprise, since Helfinstine had not known she being considered for the award.

Helfinstine, a Clanton native, graduated from the University of Montevallo in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in special education for deaf and hard of hearing.

After graduation, Helfinstine worked in Birmingham City Schools as an itinerant Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher for eight years. She worked closely with Children’s HEAR Center and the Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to ensure students’ had what they needed. She worked with students in 25 different schools, ranging from preschool to high school. Helfinstine said she would visit students at three or four schools a day to make sure that their amplification device was working properly and meeting their needs.

Working for Chilton County Schools has allowed Helfinstine to work closer to home. She is now working where she attended elementary school.

“I enjoy not having to drive to Birmingham every day,” Helfinstine said.

Helfinstine’s interest in working with deaf students began in college.

“I actually started as a speech language pathologist major at Montevallo, and I needed a minor so I chose deaf studies,” Helfinstine said. “When I started taking those classes, I became more interested in that than I was in speech pathology.”

She changed her major to education for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Each Friday she participated in a “silent lunch” to practice sign language skills by communicating with deaf or hard of hearing members of the community. She also completed an internship at the Alabama School for the Deaf.

Helfinstine was inspired to attend the University of Montevallo because her mom had graduated from there.

“I enjoyed the small classes, and my professors were great,” Helfinstine said. “It was a good time for me.”

Helfinstine and her husband Eric live in Clanton with their children Aria and Riley.