Principal, Taft Elementary School
Steven Longacre has a mainstreamed-school background—one that has given him invaluable first-hand insight and experience. The youngest of six boys, he wasn't identified as profoundly deaf until he was 4 and his brother Rich, his elder by 14 months (and who has mild-to-moderate deafness) had started school.
He quips, "Perhaps the delay in recognizing a hearing loss might have something to do with six boys running around the house? Did the Longacres just simply 'run out of ears?'"
He was enrolled at the local Granada Elementary, which happened to have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing program, and was fully mainstreamed from third grade on. Although no signing was taught or used in class, he and his classmates created their own. "I still remember the 'made-up' signs."
He struggled through high school, "guessing my way through" and relying on classmates' notes, anxious about his prospects in college, when he learned about nearby Golden West College, a community college in Huntington Beach that offered support services (such as notetakers). There he was reunited with some of his old deaf classmates from Granada. He also met Greg Koppel, who taught him about ASL and the Deaf community. "Greg showed me that the use of sign language and being a part of the deaf community was the way to success. Little did I know at the time how true this would be!"
In June 1975, Steve won GWC's Outstanding Student of the Year award, its most prestigious campus honor, and entered California State University, Northridge (CSUN), rooming with Greg. Steve majored in Education; Greg majored in Theatre. "I eventually got involved with theatre as well and several years later, Greg and I combined our talents in magic and the arts to create a performing act known as ‘DEAFinitely Magic!"’
Steve earned Master's degrees in Special Education (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) (1978) and Administration and Supervision (1982). He began his teaching career at Arizona School for the Deaf in Tucson, then returned to California. After a stint as career-education teacher, he joined the administration of Taft Elementary School in Santa Ana, which had a well-known mainstream program embracing the Total Communication philosophy—giving deaf students access to any and all modes of communication that could benefit them. He became the principal of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, then co-principal with the principal of the General Education Program. When this principal retired, the superintendent asked Steve to "take on the entire campus, becoming the Principal for the entire student body. I have now been at Taft Elementary for a total of 24 years!" His devotion to the students, parents, faculty, and staff is obvious.
Still, there's his old love of theater. He moonlights as an ASL teacher at CSU Los Angeles and Irvine Valley College, and performs magic with Greg. The dynamic duo took first place in Comedy Magic at the 2002 World Deaf Magicians Festival in Moscow and repeated the feat two years later in Leipzig, Germany. They have won several other awards, "most notably in competitions with hearing magicians."
Steve and his wife Marisela ("Sela") have two children. She's hearing, a native Spanish speaker, and knows ASL. ("I tried to get her to agree that the first person who heard the baby cry at night would have to get up to attend to the baby’s needs. ;-)") She teaches in the Santa Ana Unified School District. "We can be caught signing to each other at meetings, leaving others in attendance clueless!"
Steve's parents, Robert and Mary Longacre, founded a nonprofit organization, "DEAFinitely 4 Kids, Inc.", as a way of giving something back to the community. He has taken over the organization, serving as president. DEAFinitely 4 Kids provides resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Orange County, including Taft students.
Immediate plans include "making magic happen." DEAFinitely Magic now has a Facebook page, and hopes to perform across the country.