CLERC-GALLAUDET WEEK – First Full Week in December

(Last Updated On: November 9, 2022)


Every year during the first full week of December, we honor Clerc-Gallaudet week. Did you know that the first exceptional deaf teacher in America was actually a Frenchman? His name was Laurent Clerc, and as a young man, he befriended Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. The two would later make history when they founded America’s first permanent school for the deaf in the United States.

Laurent Clerc was born in 1785 and was born with the ability to hear. But when he was just one year old, he fell into a fire and lost both his hearing and his sense of smell. He grew up attending a school for the deaf in Paris. When he graduated, he stayed there and worked as a very dedicated teacher’s assistant.

While this was going on, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was a man living in America and studying to be a minister. During this time, he met a young deaf girl named Alice Cogswell and was shocked to find out that there weren’t any schools for the deaf in America. He decided to put his studies on hold and traveled to London to educate himself about how to teach deaf people. One thing led to another, and he ended up spending 3 months at the same school Laurent Clerc was teaching at.

The two began working and studying together, and eventually, Clerc agreed to join Gallaudet in America for just a short time. One year after they arrived, they founded the first permanent school for the deaf in America in Hartford, Connecticut. On April 15, 1817, The American Asylum at Hartford for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb opened with seven students, Alice Cogswell being the first enrolled. Gallaudet was the principal, and Clerc was the headteacher. The year after the school opened, poor and uneducated students filled the school, ranging in age from 10 to 51 years old. Clerc’s students went on to found other schools for the deaf across the country using Clerc’s methods of teaching. Thanks to Clerc and Gallaudet, over 30 residential schools were founded around the nation during their lifetime.

HOW TO OBSERVE #ClercGallaudetWeek

Use #CercGallaudetWeek to post on social media. It’s important to keep the history alive and to honor these men who made it their mission to bring schools for the deaf to America. Learn more about the history of these men, or deaf history in general to find out more about what it’s like to be deaf and go to school in America.


In our research, we were unable to find the founder of Clerc-Gallaudet Week.


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