American Sign Language class approved for two more years


Click on here to see how to sign nice to meet you (courtesy of creative commons)

Tessa Voytovich, News Co-Editor

A unanimous vote at the Board of Education meeting on Oct. 21 welcomed two more American Sign Language courses to the academic program guide.

“When we saw the popularity of [ASL], we decided maybe it’s time to write a proposal for the third and fourth year,” fine arts division chair Paula Nardi said.

The ASL program was launched in the summer of 2016  after the Chinese program was phased out. Upon the first proposal, ASL was only offered at levels one and two.

“Only two levels was far too little,” ASL student William Keeley ‘22 said. “There is so much we have yet to learn, but with three and four I will finish ASL with exponentially better signing.”

However, the administration had a plan when they decided to implement the two-level track.

“The feeling was that we didn’t want to jump into another four year sequence, a brand new language without knowing how successful or popular it would be,” Nardi said. “So we decided to offer it as a two year sequence.”

American Sign Language teacher Colleen Gibbons pioneered the ASL curriculum at LT. As an LT graduate, she reflected on her own years here during which she wished she could have taken ASL classes, she said.

“I just kept thinking about that high school experience that I had when sign language just wasn’t an option,” Gibbons said. “So I decided that I would finally do something about it from the inside.

“There’s no question that this was the right thing to do,” Nardi said.

More and more students have been signing up to take ASL, Gibbons said. Parents and students alike pushed for the addition of more classes.

“We surveyed kids, talked to parents, talked to the community members,” Nardi said. “Parents even came to board meetings and asked questions about it. They were really passionate about offering this opportunity for students.”

To show their support for the proposal, a group of 22 ASL students accompanied Gibbons to the October Board meeting, all wearing their ASL club shirts, she said.

“The students were so excited,” Gibbons said. “Everybody is thrilled [about the new classes].”

The third and fourth year of ASL are offered as a two year alternating sequence called a “swing curriculum”, so that every student can take each level, Nardi said. This is also done with Latin and German classes.

The names of the new courses are “Expressive Language” and “Receptive Communication”.

“We will work on increasing speed and fluency,” Gibbons said. “We will also be learning even more vocab and spend time talking about careers in ASL such as being a deaf educator or an interpreter.”

Students will be able to sign up for these courses in February.

“There’s no question that this was the right thing to do,” Nardi said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how our enrollment numbers look for next year. We now have, in our third year of the program, more students taking ASL than we do Latin and German, and enrollment comparable to Italian.”