Teaching American Sign Language

Vernon is an ASL (American Sign Language) instructor/support worker with MFNERC. Vernon has spent the majority of his life Deaf after he contracted meningitis at 9 months old. Originally from The Pas, Manitoba; Vernon’s family came to Winnipeg when he was 2 years old so they could access the supports that he needed. They received support from central speech for a year but Vernon wasn’t learning how to speak. So his mom switched him to the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) and that’s where he learned how to sign around the age of 4. Once learning how to sign, soon after he started learning to talk. After SMD he attended the Manitoba School for the Deaf (MSD) from kindergarten to grade 12.  “I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for my mom coming down here. We didn’t have the resources in The Pas that SMD and MSD was able to give me.”

Vernon always knew he wanted to be a teacher, he wanted to be able to teach other young Deaf kids how to sign and grow up with the same confidence that Sign Language has given him. He was able to get a job once he graduated college working at the Manitoba School for the Deaf as an Educational Assistant. After working there for a little over a year, Vernon was told about an opportunity at MFNERC that he couldn’t pass up. “I didn’t even know a job like this existed – I’m really happy here doing what I do in the community.”

Vernon develops resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in 5 of 10 communities within Manitoba, with Emil Easter covering the other half.  “We come in and teach the kids how to sign in ASL. We also spend time teaching the students in the classrooms, the teachers, and the educational assistants. We also provide community evening sessions to teach any interested family and community members how to sign in ASL.”

The other day Vernon turned his office space into a makeshift photo booth and used his laptop to take photos of himself signing about specific themes. This week was about ‘winter.’ He then printed out the photos of himself signing the words, as well as photos of the action or item he is signing. He makes them into posters or flash cards. He uses these flashcards in his work with students learning ASL and leaves them behind for the students to practise with. He also makes videos to share with the students. “It’s great to be able to provide ASL instruction for the students in their home community and to provide ASL support to the community as well. Kids can fall behind when they have no language or way of communicating with the other kids, teachers, and/or parents at school or home, so I love my job and the role I have here at MFNERC.”



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