It is commonly said that “all good things must come to an end”; this axiom holds true concerning Eckberg’s time at UNO. In 1984, the Board of Regents threatened to cut the Teaching the Hearing Impaired program, despite the facts that the program was growing and its graduates were in high demand throughout the Omaha metro. Amidst this controversy, the program’s founder, Barbara Luetke-Stahlman, left the University. Shortly thereafter, Eckberg followed suit. Although future students sustained an incalculable educational loss as a result of Eckberg’s resignation, her legacy is still alive in the numerous special educators across the nation who once reaped immense benefits from her presence. And, thanks to the oppositional efforts of Eckberg and proponents of the Special Education Department at UNO, the degree path, which was renamed the Education of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program, is still thriving today (to read more about this program, visit http://coe.unomaha.edu/sped/index.php).
Eckberg also did her share of teaching outside of classrooms, advocating tirelessly for the deaf community throughout her adult life. Her primary concentration was that of improving deaf education. She participated actively on local boards and panels, wholeheartedly voicing her support of residential programs, deaf teachers, and manual communication. These efforts did not go unnoticed. In 1986, journalist Lynne Bechtold wrote an article praising Eckberg’s professional and public advocacy (see Figure 9). In the piece, Eckberg drew upon her own experiences; in doing so, she expressed feelings that the progress of deaf children was hampered by prevailing, orally-biased medical and pedagogical approaches to deafness. Proponents of oralism, she maintained, too often advised parents to place their non-hearing youths in schools that were simply “not suited to their needs” (Bechtold 6). She vociferously railed against oralist forces and underscored the remarkable, yet frequently untapped, abilities of deaf schoolchildren. It was in this spirit that she declared, “They [parents] might be told, ‘Your child can learn to talk. He can be normal.’ What they don’t consider is what the child has in his mind. You can spend 12 years teaching a deaf child to say a few words, but if he can’t read or write, what’s the point? You must consider what is in his mind” (Bechtold 6). Eckberg’s activism in the public sphere revolved around her fervent wish for deaf children to receive the education that they deserved—the education that she had never been afforded as a child, one founded upon the equality of deaf and hearing children, characterized by additional support services, and committed to offering more than mere “token communication.”
Ms. Eckberg lobbied continually for the educational rights of deaf children. Likewise, she sought to improve the social conditions and assert the civil rights of all deaf citizens. Outside of school hours, she worked as a news editor and secretary for the Omaha Association of the Deaf, a social group geared toward fostering a sense of community amongst deaf residents. Furthermore, she served on the Midwest Telephone Relay Board to ensure that optimally accessible, high-quality services were being provided for regional deaf citizens who relied on TTY systems to communicate via telephone (to read more about TTY, visit http://www.michdhh.org/assistive_devices/text_telephone.html). She participated in these activities throughout the 1970s and 80s, eventually waging a much more public battle for the deaf community.