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School for the Deaf selects Deaf Awareness Week spokespersons

Monday, September 18, 2023

SULPHUR, Okla. -- Governor Kevin Stitt issued an official proclamation recognizing September 18 through 24th as Deaf Awareness Week in Oklahoma.

"Deaf Awareness Week is a way to raise awareness on issues, people, and culture relating to Deaf community,” OSD Superintendent Dr. Heather Laine said.

Dr. Laine, who is Deaf, added, “At OSD, our students take the pride of their identity as a Deaf or hard of hearing person and become advocates to promote accessibility in their community." 

According to 2019 U.S. Census-based estimates, 194,000 Oklahomans, all ages, or 5 percent of the population have hearing disabilities. The Census data does not identify the number of Deaf Oklahomans.

OSD students and staff participate in various activities and awareness campaigns to celebrate the annual event.

Dr. Laine selected two OSD Deaf Awareness Week spokespersons: second-grade teacher Pamela Fylstra and senior RyJan Reininger.

An OSD graduate originally from Chickasha, Pamela Fylstra now lives in Sulphur. She has taught at the school in various positions for 30 years, including pre-kindergarten for 15 years and various elementary grades from transition first grade to 4th grade.

She was honored as the OSD Teacher of the Year in 2021 and accepted the lead teacher position for the elementary department for this school year.

“My goal for Deaf children is to let them know that Deaf people can do anything except hear,” Fylstra said referring to a quote by I. King Jordan, the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

“Deaf children can dream big because dreams do happen,” she said.

OSD’s second Deaf Awareness Week spokesperson RyJan Reininger is a senior from Midwest City. He has attended OSD since the fourth grade and is in the fourth-generation of family members who are Deaf. He and his family are members of the Muscogee Nation.

"Every Deaf person is different,” Reininger said. “We all have different teachers in our life." 

Reininger was recognized this year by the National Deaf Interscholastic Athletic Association as player for the year for all schools for the Deaf in the nation. He is the current football team captain.

He also excels in studies and athletics as a member of academic and robotic teams and top player on the basketball and football teams. He is the current vice-president for student government and secretary for the Class of 2024. 

Reininger earned the 2021 Oklahoma School for the Deaf student of the year award at People with Disabilities Awareness Day from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

In 2022, OSD educated 494 students, including 95 residential and day students at the campus in Sulphur, the preschool program in Chickasha, outreach services, FEELS Family Engagement, Early Learning Support and summer camps. OSD offers free online, pre-recorded American Sign Language classes. Register now at

For more information about Oklahoma School for the Deaf, contact 580-622-4900 or, or visit

OSD is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services


Oklahoma School for the Deaf senior RyJan Reininger from Midwest City and second-grade teacher Pamela Fylstra from Sulphur are OSD’s Deaf Awareness Week spokespersons..

For more information

Jody Harlan, DRS Communications Director

Cell: 405-203-1318 

Last Modified on Sep 18, 2023