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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High’s ASL program expands with more classes, student club

Feb 05, 2019 02:32PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High ASL club members sign to Jordan High ASL students at a Dec. 17 potluck designed to improve skills and practice signing. (Robin Van Dusen/Hillcrest High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High junior Brooke Iacobazzi may be the first to admit she’s not the most talented in her American Sign Language III class, but it was her passion for becoming involved in the deaf community that helped inspire ASL teacher Robin Van Dusen to ask her to be president of the recently reinstated ASL club.

“The club, in some ways, is an extension of the class,” Van Dusen said. “It’s student-driven, with opportunities and ideas that help make students successful in ASL. After seeing Brooke’s dedication and her engagement in the deaf community, her enthusiasm and outgoingness coupled with her responsibility, made her a natural leader for our club.”

Brooke said last year she made friends at a deaf dance and supported Salt Lake City’s Jean Massieu School of the Deaf’s teams at games. She also has been at the Robert G. Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Taylorsville.

“It was a good way to get involved and learn how they live and what they do as well as practice what I’ve learned,” she said. “I had so much fun last year, and I was so happy after going to their dance. I’m learning a lot from being a leader and I’m making some new friends.”

Brooke even hopes to use ASL in her future career and is looking into being a speech therapist.

“I’d love to learn even more signing and hope to take ASL as a concurrent class next year,” she said.

This school year, the ASL club started with social activities such as playing games, decorating Halloween cookies and having a pancake social to get everyone comfortable practicing signing.

In December, they reached out to Jordan High students and invited them to an ASL potluck.

“We asked what classes they took, learned what they were doing in school and played some games,” Brooke said about the first activity with another school this year.

Each of Canyons School District’s traditional high schools offers ASL classes, with Alta High introducing their first classes this year, Van Dusen said. 

Teachers will videoconference with one another to support each other on the curriculum as well as brainstorm approaches on teaching units. She added there also are Facebook ASL teacher sites and a Google Drive where they share ideas.

Hillcrest hired a teacher in 2013, after students had been watching classes that a Jordan High teacher aired, she said.

“Our program has just exploded,” said Van Dusen, who is Hillcrest’s second ASL teacher.

In 2015, when the school ASL club last held its meeting before this fall, the three classes expanded to seven sections.

“We now have to limit the number of kids in ASL. This year, we had to turn away 100 students,” she said about the elective courses.

Van Dusen said there are 120 students in ASL I; 75 students in ASL II; and 20 students in ASL III. She hopes next year to add an ASL IV class. 

In addition, there currently is a petition to count ASL toward the international baccalaureate program, which Hillcrest offers, she said.

Both in her classes as well as the club, Van Dusen asks students to interact with the deaf community.

“It’s important that they are engaged and bridge to the deaf community. I want them to have the opportunity to chat and socialize with their activities and widen their horizons,” she said, adding that she expects students in class to write a reflection about their experiences.

At the same time, she supports students making connections with each other, such as hosting Jordan High for the potluck.

“Students are learning to sign, and this provides them the opportunity to practice with each other,” she said.

Students also will have the opportunity to practice alongside deaf students when Lagoon offers a day for ASL-speaking youth this spring.

In the meantime, Brooke wants to introduce a service aspect to the club.

“This is a fun way to get involved and aware of our community,” she said. “I’m hoping to get us helping out even more.”