Communicating visually

American Sign Language class is coming to Ben Davis

As students make their junior and senior year schedules, they might have noticed some new additions to next school year’s choice of classes. One of the debuting classes is a course about American Sign Language (ASL).

Throughout the course, students will learn more than just American Sign Language. Students will study the deaf and hard of hearing community, identify careers that involve knowledge and use of ASL, and study teaching strategies and how knowledge of ASL can improve the field of education.

The ASL class is a two semester course that is part of the Area 31 career center. As well as offering dual credits to Vincennes University, the class fulfills the three-credit World Language requirement for the Core 40 Academic Honors diploma.

“I have been working with Area 31 and Vincennes University to setup the program here at Ben Davis,” Ben Davis ASL interpreter Alan Hocker said. “In a sense I am the mastermind behind this program. I worked with other staff to get input into what was needed. Mrs. Cain helped me to do some of the early research to make my dream a reality.”

Judy Cain is the instructor of this class and will most likely be joined by a deaf teacher hired by Vincennes University. Cain learned sign language when she attended Ball State University in 1981 and she’s been learning it ever since.

“I have always been fascinated by it and that you can fully convey meaning with your hands,” Cain said.

Cain is excited to have this class approved and finally off the ground.

“We believe we are the first high school to offer a dual credit for this language,” Cain said. “Many other schools offer ASL, but not for college credit as well as high school credit.”

We have four certified ASL interpreters employed here at Ben Davis- Megan Butler, Alan Hocker, Lisa Melby and Sheila Taylor. Each of them are strong supporters of the new ASL class, and they all have very high hopes for the class.

“I hope that this class helps build awareness of American Sign Language, the third most used language behind English and Spanish, as well as an understanding of the rich culture of the deaf community,” Butler said. “Having knowledge of ASL will always come in handy.”

“I hope that the class is successful, and that students will learn more about the beautiful language of ASL,” Hocker said, “Also, that they can take away an understanding of the deaf world and embrace the differences and similarities that we all have. Deaf people are the same as any other person you may meet; the only difference between you and them is that they can’t hear.”

All of the ASL interpreters are excited about the prospects for this class.

“I am excited about the class being offered at BDHS and am anxious to see how the enrolled students respond,” Taylor said. “I hope they love learning a new visual language and will share what they are learning with their friends. I would also like to see the program eventually grow to the point, if feasible, of offering an Associate’s degree in ASL.”

“I am thrilled,” Melby said.  “I am so proud, so very proud that Ben Davis will be hosting this program. Indianapolis has a strong deaf and hard of hearing population that uses American Sign Language to communicate.  Often times this minority group is at a loss due to a shortage of interpreters.  We need more qualified interpreters here in Indianapolis.”
If you’re interested in learning American Sign Language or about the deaf community, be sure to sign up for the American Sign Language class when you’re doing schedules for next school year.