July 7, 2022 -- A fourth grade student at Indianola Informal K-8 stopped one of her teachers, Jennie DeMarco, in the hallway and excitedly signed her name.
DeMarco gave the student a fist bump and complimented her on how much she had learned over only a few days in her American Sign Language (ASL) lessons.
Students have been learning ASL in addition to French, Spanish, and Japanese at Indianola during Summer Experience. Andre Jones, Summer Experience administrator for Indianola, said a big goal for the summer is to expose students to different languages to build a foundation early in life.
“One of the great things here is the opportunity for a week to be immersed into different languages,” Jones said. “I’ve been to a few classrooms where ASL lessons are taking place, and students are loving the opportunity. Students are doing wonderfully.”
DeMarco is a certified Pre-K-3 general education and self-contained deaf education teacher at Huy Elementary and has been teaching sign language lessons at Indianola for the summer. Kaylie Biggie is one of the sign language interpreters for the district who supports these classes.
“The big thing I want kids to learn is awareness of the language and Deaf culture,” Biggie said. “Also, when they meet a deaf child or adult, they will be able to communicate with them.”
DeMarco incorporates lessons on Deaf culture and gets kids moving by playing sign language games. DeMarco said students have caught on quickly, even outside class.
“Sometimes, I walk into the classroom or in the hallway, and they will say ‘bonjour’ or ‘hola,’ and it just shows what they are learning this summer,” DeMarco said.
DeMarco has also witnessed kids’ enthusiasm for learning something new, saying one of the most rewarding experiences has been witnessing students’ interest in learning.
“The teachers have been so flexible and always asking how they can help, and the kids have been amazing,” DeMarco said. “One of the teachers told me recently that it’s like everyone here wants to be here. That is what we wish school could always be.”