Monday, May 21, 2007

My Final Class and a Ripple In The Pond

On a perfectly calm night, you can toss a stone into Christie Lake and watch the ripples build up. One ripple causes the next ripple, which sets the motion for yet another one...

Tonight will mark my final "Conversational Sign Language" class at Joliet Junior College. I have been teaching at JJC since the early 90's and now I'm passing the baton on to Chris Laskowski, a physical education teacher who is deaf.

I've had my share of memorable students over the years. The youngest student was three years old and the oldest was 82. One student had suffered a stroke and was learning to communicate again. Several couples have taken the class to communicate with each other after losing their hearing. I have had classes as large as sixty students and some as small as six. I've had two students who have taken my class two times in a row and they've gone on to take the next level class two times as well.

Families with deaf and hard of hearing children frequently take my class and often bring the grandparents and sometimes the kids. One mom of a deaf child went on to become an interpreter. She once interpreted for me at a meeting at a local intervention agency. This mom also teaches sign classes at her local park district. Another student went on to graduate from Columbia College and now works as a full-time freelance interpreter. I recently had the honor of having her interpret for me during a meeting downtown.

I've also ran into former students in many different places. Several times I have gone into restaurants and discovered that the server has taken a class. I've found students at the post office, conferences and bookstores. It is difficult to remember all of the students after years of teaching but it's always special to come across them years down the road.

Back in the early 90's, I hosted a "Silent Day" in my hometown at a local church. I had forgotten all about that day until I received a phone call from Shirley Armstrong, one of the ladies who attended that event. She invited me to a breakfast as a thank you for the teaching I had done in my community years ago.

On Saturday, I had the honor and pleasure of having breakfast with a group of women from the Jubilee Baptist Church. Shirley in the picture on the far left) introduced me to the ladies from the church who continued to study American Sign Language year after year.

It's amazing how a ripple in the pond can continue many years later.


Dennis said...

This is a beautiful story. Thank you for giving so much. Too bad everybody doesn't give so much.


jdoriot said...

I'm so glad to have come across your blog! My son, Gus, was profoundly deaf and we were learning and teaching ASL to him. He died last May but my love for ASL has been growing ever since. I tried to take a class but it was more than I could do at the time...I have a bad habit of piling way too much on my plate! lol!! Anyway, I've bookmarked you and will be back to read more!

Karen said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your son Gus. :(

Lantana said...

Karen, you have done alot of good for society. And I am sure you have made some life-long friends.

Happy "retirement"!


Karen said...

Thank you for your kind words. :)

Jana B said...

Joliet? I've been there before! I drove to Joliet to visit my friend Rachel, on my way from my then-home in Highland Park (whew, ritzy... haha I shared an apartment with 2 other people though!) to my previous home in Indiana.

I took an ASL class in high school... it was rather traumatic though. I was horribly self-conscious, and the teacher yelled at me... I've tried to learn ASL a few times since, but I just don't seem to do well with it. Oh well... practice makes perfect :o) It took me 2 years to learn to crochet lol

Jordan said...

You're especially lucky to have the chance to see your ripples come back to you!

I'm a former ASL student. Like the other former students here, I appreciate all the time and effort that teachers like you put into sharing your beautiful language with us! I sign to myself and to my 15 month old (he's learned 4-5 signs!), but I'm getting rusty. I'll have to get back into the habit!

(I had a youth leader who had learned sign language as a missionary, and her teachers told her she'd never be able to learn ASL because only deaf people could use ASL, but hearing people would have to learn a pidgin. I can't imagine why they would tell her that!)

Dawn Colclasure said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Congratulations on such a fulfilling teaching career! Teachers are truly a blessing and it's hard to find a good one whose impressions will last a lifetime.

groovyoldlady said...

I was just picturing what it might have looked like if I used sign language to teach my bread class.

Anyone for dough in your hair?

Mark Goodyear said...

Karen, once a teacher always a teacher. That's what I've discovered anyway. Enjoy teaching less, though. : )

I certainly enjoyed watching you sign at SOBcon07! (You were one of the signers, right?)

Karen said...

Hi Mark--
The two gals who were signing up front were interpreting every word for me. I was the gal at the table in the front row. :)

Marti said...

Trying to visit the people I got to have such fun with last night at SOB. What a great post!

Small world, too - I "know" groovyoldlady! (We Squidoo and blog comment each other! I even sent her a copy of my humor book. Would you like a free copy? No strings attached, I just enjoy sharing it with friends.)

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Karen said...

Free book? Did you say free book? I can never turn down a book, especially one with humor! Send away! I'll email you.