Focus on access, equality, and inclusion is life-changing for deaf and hard of hearing
Posted on 10/23/2018
Pictures of teachers at computerColgan High School sign language interpreters have taken the program for students who are deaf and hard of hearing to great heights, and everyone benefits.
The team of interpreters at Colgan collaborated with the school’s teachers and technology and media experts to forge a supportive school community, and increase deaf awareness, access, equality, and inclusion. They achieved this vision through social media, video interpretation of class notes, captioning of lesson materials, and sign language classes for parents.

“The culture of Colgan High School is contagious and inspirational,” said Amanda Hinds, an interpreter. “Dr. David Parrish, assistant principal, adopted our program with open arms and helped to guide us towards academic growth and departmental change.”

The interpreters started a “Colgan Sign Language” Twitter page and hosted a "Sign of the Day" with administrators, teachers, coaches, and central office administrators to address their first goal of “community togetherness.” This included spreading awareness of the role of an “educational” interpreter throughout the school.

An educational interpreter must master the language needs of each student daily, gauge the language understanding, communicate that understanding to the teacher, and make sure that the interpreting style meets the needs of the student. Sign language interpreters are vital allies of teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.

The interpreters are passionate about doing the best for their students. Kayla Wisman, one of a team of nine this year, has worked tirelessly to become a master of technology. Like others on the team, she has invested much personal time to make the program successful. Along with Wisman, Logan Bruno, Emily Clark, Rebekah Venturini, and Amanda Hinds comprised the team last year when the program was implemented. All work closely with Carey Shenal, Colgan’s teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing.

With the help of Colgan’s Instructional Technology Coach William Watts, the interpreters created a web page for students to access classroom materials with sign language interpretation onscreen. Viewing a split screen, students can see notes pictured on one half, with the sign language interpretation on the other half. The teachers add captions to notes from English class, so the students can work in sign language as well as read the notes in English.

The team then tackled the biggest challenge for most students who are deaf: communication at home. Most of the families do not know sign language.

“We decided to host a sign language class for parents/families of deaf students and the faculty who work with deaf children,” said Hinds. “This has been the most pivotal change thus far.”

“We have seen significant improvements in not only our students’ academics, but also their social lives,” Hinds said. “These tools have helped them develop relationships and gain equal access to content.”

Creating a welcoming climate for all is Positively PWCS!

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