American Sign Language and Deaf culture classes offered at Stillwater Public Library

(STILLWATER, OKLA. / May 18, 2017) – Stillwater residents interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL) are encouraged to enroll in classes offered this summer by OSU Art & Sciences Outreach at the Stillwater Public Library.  The introductory course takes place each Monday, June 26 – Aug. 7, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The non-credit classes are intended for the general public, and those who register prior to June 13 can do so for a discounted rate of $89.  Registration after June 13 is $109.  One textbook, “A Basic Course in American Sign Language, 2nd Ed.,” is required, but not included in the registration fee. The class is generally appropriate for those 14 years old and up. 

Students will work with instructor Taylor Woodall and fellow students to learn vocabulary, handshapes and usage. Students can expect to collaborate on in-class exercises and outside activities to enhance their learning experience and to help put into practice what they learn during class.

Beyond vocabulary and usage, students will also learn extensively about Deaf culture.

“Past students have told me that they enjoyed learning sign language, but they were unaware of the culture shock they were submersed into,” said Woodall. “Many hearing Americans have never been aware of the community and culture that surround ASL and being exposed to it makes many students eager to learn more.”

To aid in learning more about the culture, part of the classes will be taught by Logan Evans, who is studying ASL at OSU and was born Deaf.

“Logan has experience that as a hearing person I will never be able to have,” said Woodall. “Logan’s a natural teacher and having him in class takes the learning experience to the next level.”

For Evans, helping others learn ASL is a significant benefit to people who are Deaf.

“Encounters with hearing people who don't know ASL can be exhausting,” said Evans. “I have had to deal with it by depending on oralism (voicing and lip-reading), writing notes back and forth and many other methods. But with hearing people who know ASL, the communication is fast, fluid, and not at all exhausting.”

Evans thinks one of the biggest challenges for students will be something people in the hearing world do not often experience.

“Since hearing people rely heavily on voicing and hearing, the most challenging part for them will be the silence,” said Evans. “It means that they will have to focus on watching ASL and signing in ASL without any voices.”

To introduce potential students and other interested community members to Deaf Culture, Woodall will be teaching a free class, Monday, June 19, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the library.

“American Sign Language has its own community and culture consisting of both hearing and Deaf people,” said Woodall. “The goal for this class is to introduce members of the hearing community to the history and culture of the Deaf community in America. The class will focus on landmark events in Deaf history, and students will be introduced to the culture of the Deaf community on a local and national basis.”

Evans will be a co-instructor at the class. His best advice for students as they start interacting in this culture?

“Don't be shy. Deaf people tend to be patient with hearing students who are willing to learn.”

Woodall is an ASL instructor at OSU and sign language interpreter for OSU and in the community. She has been involved in the Deaf community since 2012. Woodall earned a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies with a minor in American Sign Language. She also has earned a Master’s degree in International Studies with a focus on Human Development and Education.

Currently, Woodall is pursuing a PhD in Social Foundations of Education. Woodall’s research focuses on both Deaf and hearing students and how culture and life experiences outside of the school setting impact educational attainment.

Evans is studying Liberal Arts at OSU with a minor in American Sign Language. He plans to pursue a Master’s degree in International Studies with a focus on education, and then work toward becoming an ASL professor at OSU.

Both the free Deaf Culture class and the fee-based ASL course require registration. For more information or to register, choose the “Community” link at http://asoutreach.okstate.edu or contact Christine Nichols at (405) 744-8459 or christine.nichols@okstate.edu.

Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.). Library hours are Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.