Local teacher pens book celebrating her students

When Vielka Montout was an undergraduate student at Sacramento State University, she, like so many others, wasn’t sure what she wanted to study, let alone what she wanted to major in.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “My mom wanted me to go into business and I was like ‘I can’t even do math’.”

Then, during her second year on campus, Montout was invited by a family friend to be a guest/chaperone in an elementary school class that served students with hearing loss.

By the end of the time circle, Montout had become addicted. She had found her calling.

“Everyone who saw me saw that I was having a little more fun than the kids in the class,” she said. “The moment I left, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

For 20 years, Montout has served as a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist with the Sonoma County Office of Education.

Montout works with deaf students and with the teachers who teach them.

Through a program started in 1984, the education office now serves more than 200 hearing-impaired students.

And starting in May, they have a potential new tool to work with – Montout’s self-published book “Shayla Boo and You, All About My Hearing Book”.

Montout said she wrote the book so that the children she works with could see themselves in its pages, and that it could serve as an educational tool that unpacks the daily ins and outs of living with hearing aids. , life with audiology appointments, and life with friends and family. , some who hear well and some who have hearing loss.

“I think it’s really important,” she said.

Sometimes Montout works with a student who is the only child on campus wearing a hearing aid, or possibly the only child in their class.

“I would like them to see that there is a book on them,” she says.

Estimates of the number of school-age children living with hearing loss vary widely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But a CDC study found that 14.9 percent of 6- to 19-year-olds had some level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

Shayla Boo is named after a family friend of Montout, but the story – readers follow young Shayla from her homeschooling to an audiology appointment – ​​is fiction.

Yet it is less a narrative tale than an explanatory one.

That’s what a hearing aid is. This is how it works. This is where the battery goes.

Or, it’s my audiology report. That’s how you read it. These are the sounds I can hear, these are the sounds I have trouble hearing.

Each page ends with a question, this is where Montout the teacher comes in.

“There are books out there, but I haven’t seen any like mine, the type of interaction,” she said. “I wanted to write mine interactively – this is what we learn, this is how it works, what did you learn, talk about your hearing aid, can you name the parts of your hearing aid ?”

The book is meant to be experienced – readers connect with each other, or at least Shayla Boo, to see what they’ve learned as they go.

“I’m a teacher. That’s exactly what you do,” Montout said.

She wants the book to be less story time than conversation starter. She dreams of combining it with an exercise book and, eventually, a complete program.

The reaction Shayla Boo has received from her friends and colleagues has inspired her to keep thinking about next steps.

“I don’t know anything about publishing, I don’t know anything about writing books, I just knew I wanted to write a book,” she said. “It’s rewarding but it’s a bit scary. But the idea has been in my head for about three years.

“Putting you out, I was a little scared,” she said.

But the reception has been positive.

Montout works through Amazon, so she doesn’t have to deal with sales or shipping. She has a few early reviews – all five stars.

And something else? Shayla Boo, like Montout, is a woman of color.

“Many books don’t necessarily always have minority representation,” she said. “I wanted to make sure there was representation for everyone.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @benefield.

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