At a young age Barbara contracted the measles, and as a result suffered inner ear damage and consequently hearing loss. Yet Barbara’s hearing loss never limited her life experiences and educational career. Barbara graduated from Crawford High School near the top of her class, went on to attended San Diego State University, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and planned to pursue a teaching credential.
In the era before Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act enabled students with disabilities to access higher education, Barbara wasn’t accepted to the teaching program because the educational community worried that her unique speech patterns would impact her future student’s language acquisition. This did not stop her from pursuing a career in education. A few years later, one of Barbara’s doctors suggested that she would be an incredible role model and teacher for students who were deaf or hearing impaired. He encouraged her to get a teaching credential for students with special needs, which she did. She also obtained a Master’s in Speech Pathology/Audiology and Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling at San Diego State University.
Dr. MacNeil’s three decades with San Diego City Schools began in a special-education classroom as a student teacher in 1974. In 1978 she worked as a school psychologist, continuing to advocate to effectively individualize educational programs for students who were deaf or hearing impaired. In 1981, Dr. MacNeil joined the administrative ranks of the district, gradually expanding her role in a field in which she would receive national recognition. In 1986, she recieved a Doctorate in education at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis on curriculum and instruction. Her thesis was the creation of a unique assessment specifically designed for deaf and hearing impaired students.
Dr. MacNeil reviewed program grants for the federal government, edited and wrote for American Annals of the Deaf, and developed strategies for the national Conference of Education Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf. On the state level, she was co-chairwoman of the California Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Education Advisory Task Force. As the manager of the Low Incidence programs she promoted a family atmosphere in her ranks, which included nearly 300 teachers and support staff.
Although she overcame two encounters with cancer in 1969 and 1995, in 2004 she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and passed away on January 9th 2005. Dr. MacNeil never stopped advocating for what was in her students’ best interest. Regardless of budget constraints and other challenges, she was creative and always found a way to ensure that her students’ received the best education possible. She inspired those around her through her example and changed the face of the Special Education and Low Incidence programs here in San Diego.