April Davidson
Adjunct Faculty, Sign Language Department

A few years back, there was a young woman in my Introduction to the Deaf Community class. We’ll call her Annie. Annie was young, still in high school. Most of the time, she was precocious, eager, and bubbly. Occasionally, she was distracted and quiet, unwilling to participate. One such day, I asked her if she wanted to discuss anything, if she was okay. She only shook her head and quickly exited the room.

In this class, students learn approximately 300 new words and concepts in ASL, 300 unique handshapes and movements, and various rules of grammar and syntax. Learning new vocabulary is not the bulk of the class – it is foremost a class focusing on culture and community – yet it is an integral part. A significant portion of the overall grade is based on a student’s receptive understanding of ASL.

It’s common for students to struggle when learning a new language. Few sail through with ease. Some drudge through beginning lessons but ultimately give up.  More sweat it out and are satisfied with anything above passing.

Annie wasn’t so easy to define, but I was never worried she would quit. Annie scraped by with a 2.5 and plotted her way through further ASL classes with a goal of entering our Interpreter Training Program. Our ITP is a sort of language boot camp and is not for the weak or weary. I knew Annie would be a good fit.

In the fall of 2015, about a year after she sat in my classroom, Annie sent me an email. She said she wanted to thank me for pushing her and for the day I asked her what was wrong. She explained that she had been going through a very difficult time in her personal life and saw our class as a refuge of sorts. The challenge of the material allowed her to immerse herself in something other than her private trials. Though there were times she considered walking away and rethinking her path at LCC, ultimately she persevered and has since graduated. Annie said the day I approached her after class had been a particularly harrowing one and I was the first person who took notice.

She expressed in her email that feeling noticed meant feeling important and accountable, that when I expected more from her, she expected more from herself. She began to believe.

Annie is but one student from one class in one semester. We teach hundreds with the hope of inspiring one. Even when there is more, Annie will be my one.