Tribute to Joseph Thomas Kopas
Teacher, Pioneer, Storyteller
Joseph Kopas retired from The Learning Center for the Deaf in 2001, after 30 years of teaching at the school and more than 50 years as a teacher. He taught at the West Virginia School for the Deaf, The Wisconsin School for the Deaf, The Maryland School for the Deaf, and Crotched Mountain School for the Deaf. He was a 1952 graduate of Gallaudet University. Joe was a much respected teacher and leader of the deaf in every community where he lived.
Joe was a unique person who once lived in the hearing world and at an early age became a member of the deaf community. He was able to bridge the gap between both worlds, offer an exceptional insight to education, and help people understand the minor differences between them if given the chance.
Joe was the first deaf teacher of deaf students in Massachusetts. That success encouraged many other schools to open their doors to deaf teachers and helped establish great role models for children. Joe helped The Learning Center in its early stages grow into a vital part of the Boston Community and the Deaf Community nationwide.
Joe was an advocate for the deaf and their rights. He was always pushing people to be their best. His sense of humor and storytelling was enjoyed by many. He always had a story or a joke for every situation, helping to make a situation more relaxed. He was confident that all students could be successful if given the chance. He gave encouragement and guidance willingly. Joe worked at the local hearing high schools teaching sign language and deaf culture. He helped the hearing students understand that deafness is not a curse, and they could be comfortable interacting with deaf people. He was a big advocate that a deaf person was capable of doing anything a hearing person could do except hear! He taught sign language classes to parents and community members for many years as well. Joe was a voracious reader and learner. He always wanted to share his knowledge and experiences. He loved to read and learn about the classics, poetry, history, and sports. He shared the knowledge with everyone he met. Joe loved to quote famous poems and famous sayings. His ability to recall so many things was great!
Joe also participated with WGBH TV for the close captioning program in its infancy which today is the mainstay of the television industry.