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Cultural growth in the ASL program

“As a person with a disability, anyone can teach it doesn’t matter who it is,” ASL teacher, Erica Miley said.  

The first Deaf teacher has been added to staff for the ASL class. When teaching ASL, the use of culturally appropriate signing and etiquette is particularly important. While a hearing teacher can teach the language, they cannot capture the feeling of being a Deaf person in the hearing world. 

 The previous teacher had this belief as well and often advocated for the use of deaf teachers in ASL courses. Her beliefs were so strong, that she gave up her position as an ASL teacher in order to make the dream a reality. The school now welcomes Ms. Miley into the Marietta community.

 Some may wonder why she would go into teaching. With the communication barrier, it must be a difficult thing to want to do. Ms. Miley, however, describes teaching ASL as her “calling.” Despite her current love for teaching ASL,  it was not always her passion.  

“At first, I wanted to become an accountant … I was in my final year at Gallaudet, ready to graduate to become an accountant. One of my advisors told me, you need to take one course of linguistics. I said, okay, so I took one on one. So, the teacher, who was deaf, warned us after asking us what our majors were,” Miley said. “I told her accountant, she said, just to let you all know, by the end of this course. I feel like you all will change your majors to ASL. And I laughed. I wanted to change my major to ASL. She was like, no, no, you were so ready to graduate. I think I found my calling.” 

Miley also teaches an ASL  course. It is very unlikely that any of these students have encountered ASL, so it changes communication in the classroom.

Being a Deaf teacher does come with its issues given the language barrier. Ms. Miley, her students, and staff have had to overcome. The use of an interpreter has helped with this barrier.  

“I try hard to understand, but I do want to make sure that communication flows between the two of us. And so, they’re here to support me,” Miley said.  

However, over the course of the class, students have had differing difficulty in the course. 

“My experience with having a Deaf teacher is that she is a great person, like I think she does her job really well. It’s just hard having previously learned from someone who isn’t deaf,” Andrea Barbuto (12)  

“It’s pretty easy to communicate with her if you actually pay attention in the class. She usually mouths words so it’s easier to communicate with her when you sign anyways though,” Anslie Semanisin (12) said. 

Erica Miley is the new ASL teacher. Photo by Alexandria Kelly

“When I use my sign I feel like I’m more connected with her rather than mouthing of lip wording with her , but the longer you’re in the class, the easier it gets talking to her,” Alayza Wilkerson (10) said 

The ASL students of Marietta High school, however, remain open minded to the use of this new form of communication. ASL students are often found signing across the room with their hearing peers to avoid interrupting class. 

Having a Deaf teacher has overall increased the fluidity and ease of learning and using ASL.

The ASL class has always been involved in the Deaf community. The class has hosted two silent socials, which are assemblies celebrating large movements in Deaf culture. In 2022, The Silent Social was themed after the movie CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) which won an Oscar for portraying the life of a girl who used sign language to share her love for music with her parents. 

In 2023, The ASL class hosted the Starbucks Silent Social to highlight a Starbucks in Washington D.C. near Gallaudet University, the first University for Deaf people in America. The course wishes to continue this community outreach with the ASL club, which is open to all who are interested. 

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About the Contributor
Alexandria Kelly, Staff Writer
Alexandria Kelly is a Marietta High School Senior. She was previously employed by Teach For America where she worked with other students creating a new and innovative learning space for K-12 students taught by college students. Alexandria owns a cookie business called “The Cookie Hero” selling cookies reminiscent of soul food favorites such as sweet potato pie, brown butter chocolate chip, and banana pudding. All cookies that aren’t sold go into a care package for people in need in the area.
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