Mrs. Lawson is the proud director of Central High School’s American Sign Language Club – or ASL Club for short – and has been since 2018.
Since Covid has struck just like all the other clubs, of course the ASL club was also affected. This may not be common knowledge to those of you who have not had any interest in the Deaf Community or any connections, but one major way that people in the Deaf Community would connect with each other were the various deaf events that were held before social distancing and all that fun stuff. So when Mrs. Lawson was asked “How has the Deaf Community dealt with the pandemic, have things just been normal?” She responded, “Prior to the pandemic, the Deaf Community hosted various social events in Knoxville. Unfortunately, those have not been happening during COVID-19.
We are lucky that Deaf people can use videophones and zoom to connect. I have seen some people doing zoom game nights to still connect and socialize. We are very thankful for technology so that Deaf people are not completely shut off from each other.” It warms my heart to know that even in the circumstances that we are dealing with right now, they are finding ways to get through it and still connect and be with each other. Among the Deaf community as a whole having a big change throughout this time, the ASL club has also gone through some changes. I asked her (Mrs. Lawson) “How have things been different with the ASL club being virtual versus being in person?” And her response was this, “Last year, our ASL club did a lot of community service. It has been extremely difficult to host the club virtually. We have had a few meetings, but we cannot serve the community in the capacity that we did last year.
Last year, we had students serving multiple afternoon childcare centers by teaching children ASL; they even had a small holiday Christmas performance in ASL. We also decorated small Christmas trees for children who couldn’t go home from Children’s Hospital during the holiday season. I am hopeful that next year we will be back to normal so we can host more meetings in-person and serve our community again.” I also asked Mrs. Lawson, “What kind of deaf events or activities do you hope to get your students involved in once all this mess is over?” She said, “I would love to see students teaching ASL to after-school programs again. I’d also like to see students host a few Deaf Community game nights or kickball in the park. I have several community contacts who would like to have ASL students come work with other Deaf children that they know.
Ultimately, our goal is to educate the community about Deafness and let them know that we have a growing program in Fountain City.” I think it is just amazing that she is already thinking about other kids and not just the kids involved at our school.
If you had happened to notice, last semester Mrs. Lawson had a student teacher helping in her class. But if you had a conversation with him you would need one of two things: an interpreter (someone who translates ASL to verbal English and vice versa) or the knowledge of ASL, because he only signed. When asked, “What was it like having a deaf student-teacher (John) here last semester?” She responded, “We were so lucky to have John in our classroom last semester! He was a great asset to our room; it really gave students the opportunity to learn more about Deaf Culture and ASL. I was so impressed by how our students and staff accepted John and made an effort to communicate with him daily with their signs or by using the interpreters. I am certain that he really appreciated being so welcomed. John did a great job teaching students ASL and about advocating for the Deaf Community.”
The last question that Mrs. Lawson was asked was more about her than anything. She was asked, “What made you (Mrs. Lawson) want to start an ASL club, or teach ASL in general?” And her response was simply this , “There were many students who had finished ASL or were taking ASL that were still interested in practicing more outside of class. They had questions about working with the Deaf Community, so I wanted to give them an opportunity to do that. As far as teaching goes, I love seeing students find a passion. Our class is very different than most as it is all silent for an hour, and I think that gives students a unique learning experience. It has been so fun to see students grow over the years with their skills and as students.” Everyone can have their own opinions about Mrs. Lawson but if you want mine, just look at these last five sentences that she said. I mean if that doesn’t show you that she cares more about her students than herself and what kind of amazing person she is, I honestly don’t know what does.
You should come check out the ASL Club! See Mrs. Lawson in room 212 for more information!
Below are some more pictures Mrs. Lawson has provided us with.
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