- Sponsorship -

Students become sign-language teachers to senior learners

ASL students hone skills by teaching to others

Class had barely gotten started and Mary Ann Shumaker asked one thing of the two instructors sitting across from her: “How do I say ‘It’s my birthday?’”

Teaching Shumaker the phrase in American Sign Language was no problem for senior Katie Tellier and junior Jacob Campbell, who extended their own good wishes then deftly guided her and fellow student Linda Biggins in the correct hand motions.

Kai’Enna Tucker reviews a sign from the prior week’s lesson

Katie, Jacob and about a dozen of their Forest Hills Central High classmates were three weeks into teaching an eight-week ASL class to those who had signed up at the Forest Hills Community/Senior Center.

In this class it’s the teachers who are graded. Students are juniors or seniors in their third or fourth year of ASL classes at the school, where it qualifies as a foreign language.

“It’s an outreach for us, and it helps us learn it better,” said Morgan Wildman, a senior who is in her second year teaching the class at the center. Morgan plans to pursue a career in special education, and is dual enrolled in Lansing Community College’s interpreter program.

Fellow student teacher Kai’Enna Tucker, also a senior, said she’s taking the class just because she enjoys it. “You realize how much you know when you have to teach it,” she said.

Students Gain Confidence

Tara Blue’s favorite food: tacos

Teacher Kimberly Anderson said she signed on a few years ago to teach an evening adult class at the senior center. She soon realized there would be more students in a class held during the day, and that some struggled with the pace of her class.

“I had already made the decision to encourage my students to assist in these classes, and thought about the opportunity to have them all teach during the daytime,” she said. “This way, more community members could be involved and my students would all be able to participate.

“The benefit of having my students partner one-to-one is they know how far or how much to push their student week to week,” Anderson said. “It also helps with memory and maintaining a strong pace. … My students all say that this is their favorite experience throughout the entire year.”

What’s more, she said, the Central High students gain confidence in their skills just as they are sharing them with others.

“They are also put in a position of knowledge, meaning they are the ones people ask for help, which I think … helps with future relationships, self image and prospective job opportunities.”

The center classes aren’t the only time Anderson’s ASL students test their skills in the community. They also spend time at Meadow Brook Elementary, teaching younger students the basics as they learn about Helen Keller.

Her students also have practiced signing during preschool story time at the Cascade Branch of Kent District Library, and visit the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to teach signing to some patients. Level 4 students will develop activity packets for patients unable to get an in-person lesson.

- Sponsorship -
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


Who would you take with you to the moon?

From purifying water at home to reading about a barrier-breaking mathematician, students are learning about space from a variety of perspectives and disciplines...

Food service manager honored for work in pandemic year

A GRPS employee is honored by the School Nutrition Association of Michigan as Manager of the Year...

New building on track for fall opening

The new Central Elementary was made possible when voters approved a 30-year, $19.2 million bond in 2018...

Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Pen pals build bonds during remote learning

How does a teacher create get-to-know-you opportunities for her new class of third-grade distance learners?

Art with a fishy surprise

An art project demonstrates that what you see at first isn’t necessarily the whole picture...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU