Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Deaf, Hearing Students Share Course in Sign Language Teens, Adults Attending Sessions at Howell North for Fun, Understanding

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Deaf, Hearing Students Share Course in Sign Language Teens, Adults Attending Sessions at Howell North for Fun, Understanding

Article excerpt

Kathy Nelson flashed the lights in the Francis Howell North High classroom after school recently to signal that the class was about to begin. She was getting the attention of the deaf students, who were among the group of 10 teens and adults who had gathered for informal instruction in sign language.

"I'll spell it, and you sign it," said Nelson as she wrote on the blackboard the day's new vocabulary words and phrases. They included: hour, year, minute, recent, hard of hearing, hello, hi and angry.

In sign language, "you've got to use your face," exhorted Nelson, directing her comments to those in the class who can hear. She signed the word "mad" and added, "If I were smiling like this, I wouldn't be mad. You have to show expression." To illustrate, she clenched her hands and teeth while scowling. The intensity of the sign shows feeling, she said. "If your face shows it," said Nelson, "they'll understand."

The lesson was one of many for the eight teens and two adults, who meet for two hours once a week for eight weeks after school. The course is not for credit, just fun and understanding.

Students who can hear take the course so they can better communicate with deaf friends. One student, Kara Richardson, said, "I think it's important that everybody learns to communicate with everyone."

As a bonus, she said, the class "gives me a chance to meet more people."

Some deaf students show up, too, to help and to socialize with hearing students.

"I'm here because it's a fun class," said Rachelle Rumack, a deaf student who spoke through Nelson. Rumack, one of five deaf students at the high school, is a sophomore. She used to attend St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf.

Nelson, one of the school's three interpreters for deaf students, teaches the after-school course, which has been offered for several years.

At a recent session, Nelson gestured with her arms and hands in sign language as she talked.

To illustrate a silly mistake, Nelson hit her forehead with the back of a fist. The universal love sign that football players are shown doing on television, she said, is made by bending in the two middle fingers while holding the thumb and other two up. …

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