It Was Rock 'N' Roll with Silent Singers

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

Though the classroom was packed with 50 students in animated conversation, silence reigned.

The dance troupe from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine put on a high-octane rock 'n' roll show for students at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School on the Westside last week. Despite their hearing problems, they danced and lip-synced in perfect time to the music.

After the hourlong show, troupe members went into Pat Warnock's second-grade class where they taught the youngsters to sign some words and drew pictures of a rainbow.

For four years, the performers have been coming to the small school tucked into a residential neighborhood on Cedar Hills Boulevard. It's one of about 30 shows the troupe does each year.

"You're one of our favorite schools to visit," said Cheryl Johnson, the troupe's sponsor. "When you do so many performances, it's hard to remember them all. We remember some places because of the food, and we remember Stonewall Jackson because the students always sing a song to us and we go into the classroom."

Warnock said she's impressed by how well they communicated.

"My students don't know sign language, and these kids can't hear, yet somehow the gift of friendship transcends that," she said.

Twins Dakota and Corbin Gadd said they enjoyed learning how to form their names and words such as "dog" and "flower." But the brothers admitted sign language is "a little bit hard."

"We talked by drawing on a piece of paper," Corbin said. "My guy drew me a surfer dude, and I drew him an Army tank."

His classmate, Thomas Everett, said he got one of the performers' autographs because he was a "star." And after learning how to sign "I love you" and other words, he was eager to share his new vocabulary.

Warnock's second-graders spent 1 1/2 months learning to sign We Are a Rainbow, which they performed for the St. Augustine students.

"It makes it special when they sing for us," said Jason Bowen, a 19-year-old senior, who with the aid of amplification can distinguish words and sounds. …