About 15 pupils in grades 9-12 gather each day in Andy Lesnansky’s classroom for an online American Sign Language (ASL) course through the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center, which is a first for the school and is offered as a foreign language subject. The Interactive Video Distance Learning (IVDL) class is taught by instructor Jenna McBriar and includes mostly hands-on education conducted through signing. McBriar said the students are catching on quickly and she was pleased with their progress.
“It’s been going really well,” she said. “We teach mostly in ASL, so the voice is off for at least 30 minutes.”
McBriar said eight teachers instruct sign language classes through the ECOESC and interest is growing among school districts.
“It’s so popular we don’t have enough people to teach it. This is a foreign language requirement and we’ve picked up two to three new schools this year, and one is Edison.”
So far, the class has been learning the basics such as the alphabet, names, colors, shapes, numbers and parts of conversation such as greetings and saying thank you. The first 10 minutes also includes a practice video review of the previous lesson.
“Right now, we’re working on using our fingers to describe a picture. They are getting to the point that they are more comfortable with it,” Lesnansky said. “They are getting more skilled at it.”
A few of the students said they were already putting their knowledge to use.
“I thought it would be cool. Whenever I was little, I wanted to learn sign language,” said junior Katelin Wilson. “I was able to communicate with deaf customers at work.”
Junior Tessa Binkiewicz said she is able to use signing as a form of singing in the school choir.
“We do sign language in choir to perform ‘What a Wonderful World,’” she commented. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done it.”
Freshman Faith Van Horne noted that her grandmother worked with the deaf while her sibling had prior hearing issues, so sign language was nothing new in her household. When the course was offered at EHS, she took advantage.
Meanwhile, Lesnansky is learning right along with them and said it offers a new perspective about communication.
“I’m picking it up because I see it as an awesome opportunity,” he concluded.