Magnolia Speech School’s Six-Decade History

Founded in 1956 in Jackson, Mississippi

In the early 1950s, a group of parents of hearing-impaired children in Jackson, Mississippi, began to search for a means to teach their children to talk. These parents struggled with problems of financial support, facilities, and teacher capabilities. In September 1956, Magnolia Speech School for the Deaf was chartered with Mrs. Elizabeth S. Matthews as its director. Under her very capable leadership, the school provided training to children with hearing and language impairments for over 18 years. The school grew from a single class of seven to several classes, outgrowing facilities one after the other.

Developing Teaching Methods

During these early years, Mrs. Matthews began to notice a few of the hearing-impaired children were having difficulties with memory and seemed to learn differently from the others. Based on this observation, Mrs. Matthews believed a different learning technique was needed.  Mrs. Matthews had studied with Mildred McGinnis to learn the Association Method. After continued success using this method, Magnolia began to document and refine a cohesive program based on this methodology, and the school’s program for children with language-disorders was born.

Expansion of Services

Within a few years the school gained full accreditation by the State Department of Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Shortly thereafter, an emphasis was placed on expansion of services into new and innovative areas, such as audiological services, a hearing aid bank, financial aid for low-income families, and an early intervention program.

In June, 1994, Anne Sullivan, M.Ed., CED, became the executive director of Magnolia Speech School.  Ms. Sullivan, with certification in both Hearing Impaired and Speech/Language, had previously spent 14 years at Magnolia where she began as a student teacher and rose to the rank of assistant director.  Ms. Sullivan retired in 2012.

Prior to becoming executive director of Magnolia Speech School, Valerie G. Linn, M.S. in Communicative Disorders/Speech Pathology, was the executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Jackson. Prior to her work as a non-profit executive director, Valerie worked for over 24 years as a pediatric speech/language pathologist. She served in various capacities, including clinic director and senior speech/language pathologist, at the Mississippi Society for Disabilities (formerly MS. Easter Seal Society), and as a speech/language pathologist at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Willowood Developmental Center and in county school districts.

Pioneering Speech and Hearing Programs

Today, Magnolia Speech School continues its tradition of incorporating the latest information and technology to help our students succeed in the mainstream. Magnolia Speech School joins other “OPTION” programs worldwide to provide quality listening and spoken language instruction for children who are identified as deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, we are one of this country’s pioneer programs in coupling sensory integration and classroom instruction. A revised, updated, and unique “Magnolia Speech School Curriculum” is now the foundation for our instruction, provided by skilled teachers and support staff in small groups and in individual therapy.

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