Before transferring to Illinois State, Lexi Turner was an art major hoping to pursue a career teaching art. Then Turner realized her true purpose in life: She wanted to teach deaf children and help them to communicate.

Turner is a transfer from Lake Land College in Mattoon and just began her academic journey at Illinois State this fall in the College of Education as a part of its specialist in D/deaf and hard of hearing program.

“Illinois State University was the only school with deaf education in the state. I have friends who went there, and it was close to home, so it made sense to transfer,” Turner said.

Turner’s 3-year-old brother, Jax, was the main reason she made the switch in her career path and wanted to focus on developing communication skills among children.

“Jax found out he was deaf the day he was born. We immediately got him into early intervention and learned sign language. Me and my mom knew basic signing, but taking classes at Lake Land College helped me,” she said.

Transferring to Illinois State will give Turner the opportunity to expand her knowledge in deaf education and connect with more faculty and students involved in the program, she said.

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After graduation, Turner plans to focus her career in early intervention. She would like to work with deaf children under 3 years old, to teach at a preschool or kindergarten that specializes in deaf education, or work at Expanding Children’s Hearing Opportunities (ECHO) in Champaign.

Turner said her parents have been supportive of her switch to special education because they knew she was following her passion and doing it for her brother. She also said that sign language should be a part of everyone’s vocabulary.

“It is such a useful tool, but one I can’t use often because some people don’t know it,” she said.

Turner always found ways to get involved at school and to gain personal connections with people. Her time at Paris High School allowed her to flourish as she made friends and was a leader in many of the clubs she joined like the marching band, the French club, and the National FFA Organization. She is looking to make those same connections and to find ways to be involved at Illinois State.

Turner hopes to join the Deaf Redbirds Association and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which is geared toward new transfer students.

“I’m looking forward to immersing myself more in sign language and on campus. It’s been so long since I’ve been in an in-person class, so I’m looking forward to making friends at Illinois State,” she said.

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at