Sign lan­guage classes prove pop­u­lar

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Erin Green Bas­trop Ad­ver­tiser

Bas­trop High School ju­nior Tyler Miller wasn’t look­ing for a pos­si­ble ca­reer when de­cid­ing which for­eign lan­guage course to take.

He was look­ing for an easy class and an easy A.

So he and a buddy signed up their fresh­man year to take Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage.

For Miller, that de­ci­sion has been life-chang­ing.

“About half­way through that first se­mes­ter my friend and I be­gan to have fun (in the class),” Miller said.

Now a ju­nior tak­ing ASL 3, Miller said he’s in­ter­ested in lin­guis­tics and wants to at­tend Texas State Univer­sity, which has a good pro­gram, in the hopes of be­com­ing an in­ter­preter him­self some­day.

He’s one of about 175 stu­dents at Bas­trop High School tak­ing the lan­guage, one of the four for­eign lan­guage cour­ses of­fered by the Bas­trop school district, along with Span­ish, French and Latin.

The 2012-13 school year is ASL in­struc­tor Michelle de Leon’s third year teach­ing the lan­guage — one which has a unique gram­mar, syn­tax and sen­tence struc­ture with its own id­ioms and col­lo­qui­alisms — at Bas­trop High School.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful lan­guage to watch,” de Leon said, not­ing that many stu­dents re­spond well to the phys­i­cal move­ments and non­ver­bal na­ture of the lan­guage. “They en­joy it. It’s the ex­pres­sions of the body and move­ments they en­joy. Al­most all of my stu­dents love coming here and ex­press­ing them­selves with­out putting pen to pa­per.”

For some stu­dents, like Erica James, ASL isn’t just a for­eign lan­guage. As one of three deaf stu­dents at the high school, James doesn’t just take ASL, she lives it ev­ery day.

Tak­ing and us­ing ASL at the high school al­lows her to com- mu­ni­cate with more of her peers and make new friends, she said through an in­ter­preter.

“I can have more friends,” she said. “I’m not alone.”

The district also of­fers the class at Cedar Creek High School, where Lacy Erskin teaches sev­eral class pe­ri­ods of ASL 1.

Stu­dent Kat Serna said she chose to take ASL for a very per­sonal rea­son.

“My neigh­bor’s par­ents are deaf and un­til now we had to write notes to them to com­mu­ni­cate,” she said. “So I thought I’ll learn so we don’t have to write notes any­more.”

ERIN GREEN / BAS­TROP AD­VER­TISER

Bas­trop High School Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage in­struc­tor Michelle de Leon leads the mem­bers of the school’s ASL club in a re­hearsal of sign­ing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christ­mas.’

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