Deaf Academy marks 25 years of service for Nikki

Nikki has been at the academy for 25 years

Nikki has been at the academy for 25 years - Credit: The Deaf Academy

The 25 years of service given to the Deaf Academy by one of its staff – having first been to the school as a student – is being celebrated. 

Nikki James, who joined the Exmouth-based organisation as a teaching assistant in 1996 - attended the Deaf Academy from the age of 13. 

She uses her personal experience to help both her students and their families and has created social media sign language video lessons and developed the academy’s BSL library to make books more accessible to Deaf students.  

Nikki has been at the academy for 25 years

Nikki has been at the academy for 25 years - Credit: The Deaf Academy

Nikki also holds weekly sign language classes for families, to enable them to communicate with their children and special sign language weekends. 

Both of Nikki’s parents were hearing and they didn’t treat her deafness as a barrier - in fact, she initially attended a mainstream school. She says that joining the Deaf Academy at 13 years old, where everyone communicated through sign language, was something of a shock to her, but she soon learnt to sign and became immersed in Deaf culture. 

She says: “It wasn’t easy at first, coming from a hearing world to a community where everyone signed. But if I hadn’t been dropped into the deep end with this experience then I would never be where I am today.” 

After leaving education she worked as a carer and at a hearing primary school. Through her work at the primary school, the barriers faced by Deaf children from an early age became really clear to Nikki and she was inspired to return to the Deaf Academy, initially as a teaching assistant. 

Most Read

She said: “When I was younger people would always treat deafness as a disability and would coddle children, not giving them the independence that they needed to grow and succeed.  

“This is another barrier Deaf children have faced which is why I encourage children every day to meet new targets and try new things.” 

Sylvan Dewing, principal at the Deaf Academy, said: “She is such a strong role model for our students and the support she gives is totally authentic, as it comes from her own experience.”