George M. Teegarden (1852-1936) taught at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf for 48 years, established the printing department, and also served as the first editor of the school’s magazine. Despite these significant contributions, his greatest gift to deaf people was his skill as a writer and poet who was deaf, as readers will discover in When I Am Dead: The Writings of George M. Teegarden.
As editor, I’ve selected Teegarden’s prose from several sources, including his Stories, Old and New. Noting that these stories were never written for hearing readers, I marvel at Teegarden’s ability to write English prose that the ASL-familiar reader would find incredibly easy to transliterate. By employing a rich blend of original stories and revisions of fables and myths, Teegarden taught his students the importance of improving their reading and writing skills to outfit them “for the battle of life.” He produced a body of work that I characterize as “a breath of fresh air: quick, painless, and usually told with a sense of wonder.”
My choice of poems came from Teegarden’s self-published volume Vagrant Verses, a summation of his affection for Gallaudet College, the Deaf community, and all deaf people. The eponymous poem “When I Am Dead” articulates concisely the beliefs that directed Teegarden’s life of service:
“When I am dead, I hope to be
Remembered—this is true—
Not for my wit or vanities
But what I did for you.”
This title is the sixth volume in the Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies Series.