“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.”
This verse from Peter 4:10 sums up Julie Sill’s personal ethos, one she has worked tirelessly to put into practice as a mother, educator, and supporter of Ohio Valley Voices.
Julie was born in Pittsburgh and earned her BA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Grove City College. While moving around the country as a military spouse, she began looking for ways to expand her educational credentials. By chance, she stumbled upon an oral education program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, and it proved to be a life-changing discovery.
“I was immediately intrigued by the fact that improved hearing technology (i.e. hearing aids and cochlear implants) can provide access to sound for children who are deaf and hard of hearing,” she says. “When I visited a local oral school and heard the students talking and communicating in a verbal manner, I knew that this was the educational path for me.”
Julie soon enrolled in the program at the University of Texas and earned her Master’s in Deaf Education and Hearing Sciences. Then, in 2011, she moved with her family to Ohio, where she sought work at an oral education school. A quick google search revealed Ohio Valley Voices. Julie applied, was interviewed, and immediately fell in love with the program. But there was one major catch: the commute.
“I lived over an hour away from OVV,” Julie recalls. “I often got caught in rush-hour traffic which lengthened my time in the car.” Further complicating matters, Julie’s husband was deployed at the time, which meant that she was solely responsible for managing the household and raising their young children.
Despite these impediments, however, Julie felt the sacrifice was worth it. “Working with the families and children at OVV was very fulfilling for me and made the decision to work there an easy one,” she says. “It was such a wonderful school I didn’t even mind the long commute.”
Upon joining OVV, Julie worked first as a Parent-Infant Advisor and then as a Family Center Coordinator.
As a Parent-Infant Advisor, she met weekly with families of children diagnosed with hearing loss to discuss topics related to language acquisition and speech development. Her job was to lend support and guidance with the goal of empowering parents to play an active role in their child’s speaking journey.
Later, as Family Center Coordinator, she helped families transition their child to the Toddler Program, which was undergoing a major expansion at the time. Julie explains:
“When I worked at OVV, the enrollment for the toddler program tripled in size. I helped to coordinate the expansion by procuring new learning materials; supervising and supporting the teachers, speech pathologists, staff, and children; and sharing my vision for early childhood and child development.”
In 2013, after working at Ohio Valley Voices for just two years, Julie had to relocate to Virginia because of her husband’s job. Although her tenure at OVV was brief, Julie remembers it fondly and feels grateful for the close bonds she formed during her time there.
“I feel very lucky to have worked with so many wonderful families, students, and staff members at OVV,” she reflects. “I remain connected with many of the families on social media to this day. It has been such a joy to watch their children continue to grow and achieve so much in life.”
But of all Julie’s many wonderful OVV memories, the ones she cherishes most involve giving prospective families tours of the school. She recounts:
“During their initial visits to OVV, families had the opportunity to take tours of the school and meet students. I had the privilege of going on these tours. As the families spoke with our students and heard their amazing language skills, I was able to witness the hope in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as they caught a glimpse of what was possible. I still get goosebumps remembering those moments.”
OVV gave Julie more than lasting memories, though. It also provided her with a wealth of skills and experiences that continue to influence her an educator.
Soon after moving to Virginia, she enrolled at Old Dominion University, where she is currently pursuing a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education. As a Doctor of Education, she hopes to one day conduct research that will help institutions improve the construction and delivery of curriculum and offer more equitable opportunities during early childhood education.
As if that weren’t enough, Julie has also spearheaded an ambitious new project in her adopted Virginia community—one whose success she credits to her time at OVV.
“When I moved to Virginia, I helped start a new oral deaf program in my local public school district,” she explains. “My experience at Ohio Valley Voices provided me with the knowledge base and organizational tools to successfully set up and teach toddlers and preschoolers how to listen and talk in a classroom setting. I credit the many talented and innovative minds at OVV for my success in this endeavor.”
Even as she juggles these numerous responsibilities, Julie remains a dedicated supporter of Ohio Valley Voices. Her experience working in a variety of different educational settings has granted her a deepened appreciation for OVV and the high-quality services it delivers. She is happy to donate, knowing that her contribution will have an enormous impact on the families of OVV—and thus the wider world.
“The mission of Ohio Valley Voices is near and dear to my heart,” Julie reflects. “After working at other institutions around the country, I’ve realized that the specialized services provided by OVV are invaluable to families, yet they are missing from many regions. Donating to OVV allows me to help them offer more equitable opportunities for families in early childhood from all walks of life. These invaluable services not only impact each OVV family but the community as a whole.”
This piece was originally featured in our October Newsletter. You can read the entire newsletter and become a subscriber by clicking here.