By Suzanne Schmidt
A music project at Pine View Middle School is helping deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students to feel like they belong.
Students in Steve Herring’s basic music class learned all the sign language to the song “We Are the World.” Since then, many of the students have been inspired to learn more sign language and use it to talk with the small group of deaf and hard of hearing students at the school.
Lou Clegg is one of four sign language interpreters at the school along with Nancy Harris, Serena Graves and Robin Fedon-Wille. Clegg taught the students sign language in the music class.
“We started teaching them signs in January,” Clegg said. “They have learned at least 40 signs so far. This is a charter school for the deaf and hard of hearing so having them know the signs allows them to speak with the other deaf and hard of hearing students. Students in the deaf and hard of hearing program get excited when they see another student their age and they can talk with them.”
The seventh and eighth graders in the class showed off their new skills at a recent honor roll assembly. Jennifer Mathews Crosby, principal, said she thinks learning sign language was good for the students.
“The kids were very proud of their performance at the assembly,” Crosby said. “It is a very different culture for the deaf and hard of hearing students. We typically expect to have them come into our world so it makes a big difference when we can come into their world.”
Clegg said students in the deaf and hard of hearing program enjoyed watching the students sign the words to the song at the assembly.
“Even deaf students can feel the vibrations from the music,” Clegg said. “They like to come to the music room because it makes them feel like they are a part of it.”
Bianca Sifuentes, 11, is a sixth-grader in the deaf and hard of hearing program. She said she likes to be in the music class.
“I like music,” Sifuentes said. “I like the sounds, they make me happy.”
Upstanding students with good grades with an interest in learning sign language have the option to apply to be a student peer. Clegg said the student peer helps the students in the deaf and hard of hearing program feel more like they are a part of the school.
“They can assist the students with whatever they need with signing,” Clegg said. “It is nice for the deaf and hard of hearing students because they see other students learning their language.”
Only a few students are selected as peer volunteers each year like seventh-grader Valeria Renta, 12, who will be a student peer next year. Renta is originally from Puerto Rico making sign language her third language.
“I want to learn more sign language and I want to help people,” Renta said. “I will get to know people who are deaf and we can become friends. I have already learned 50 signs.”
Seventh-grader Sarah Epplin, 13, said she did know some sign language when she was younger but now she is happy to be learning it again.
“One of my cousins lost some of her hearing and so I learned some words when she was little,” Epplin said. “I think it has been a lot of fun learning sign language. I have been making new friends. If I don’t know how to sign, I can just spell it out and they can tell me the sign. It has been really cool.”
Eighth-grader Amber Snyder, 13, learned sign language when she was friends with a deaf student in the third grade. She said she did not talk to him for a long time until she saw him recently.
“I am glad because I can talk with him now,” Snyder said. “I think the deaf and hard of hearing students are sad because they don’t have as many students to talk to. It is nice to be able to talk to them. I learned that when you can communicate with someone in another language you feel triumphant. Learning a language and being able to talk in it is very rewarding.”
Stacy Reddic, DHH resource teacher, said she would like to see more students learn sign language.
“It is great for our deaf and hard of hearing students so they can feel like they are part of the school,” Reddic said. “It builds their self esteem and knowledge of the hearing world so when they do go out into the world they will not be as shy.”
Clegg said she agrees.
“I wish there was more promotion of American Sign Language in schools so the hearing children can work with the deaf and hard of hearing students,” Clegg said. “It would be nice if everyone at least learned the alphabet so they could communicate with them.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.