Middle school teacher brings American Sign Language curriculum to Pineville

PINEVILLE, Mo. – Students at Pineville Middle School are now being taught American Sign Language thanks to a teacher who learned it after a family member developed hearing loss.

When Pineville teacher Shannon Scates was a child, she had a great-uncle who contracted scarlet fever and suffered hearing loss as a result. This led her great-uncle to teach her how to count, spell and sign others’ names using ASL so they could still communicate fluently.  

Now Scates is using the language her great-uncle taught her to help the next generation do the same and be able to communicate with those who are deaf or hearing-impaired.

The Pineville Middle School teacher developed the curriculum for ASL classes herself because she says curricula for the deaf can often cost thousands of dollars. Although she is not completely fluent in ASL and has to sign consistently to stay refreshed, Scates says that certainly hasn’t held her class back from excelling. 

“I speak it conversationally. The older I get the harder it is for me to sign if I am not doing it all the time,” she said. “I have to stop and think about it before I do it. But for the kids, they are catching on so quickly that my advanced kids are surpassing me. I think a lot of it is your memorization and how your brain processes other languages. Always practice 30 minutes a day just like you would if you were learning Spanish, Italian or French.”

Scates’ teachings are working so well and the class is enjoying it so much that her students recently took it upon themselves to perform the Pledge of Allegiance using ASL at the Second Annual McDonald County Veterans Day ceremony. 

“What we discovered is, we do have hearing-impaired people in our community and they were very touched by having that kind of representation. And it took off from there,” the teacher told The Heartlander.

To continue learning and sharpening their ASL skills, Scates encourages her students and others to meet someone who is hearing-impaired or deaf and converse with them on a regular basis. 

“If you have the opportunity to go to a school for the deaf and meet someone and start conversing with them, that is an awesome way to learn because you are forced to learn how to communicate and learn faster,” she said. 

“What I would like most for people to get out of our story is that it does not take much to do something that can be meaningful to members of our community who are normally overlooked. Sign language is a beautiful language. The hearing impaired are so grateful to be seen and recognized. Society can do so much with just a little bit of effort.”

Scates says her ASL class also has piqued a few of her students’ interest in becoming sign language interpreters in the future.

“As a teacher, to be able to ignite that kind of goal in a student is what we are here for.”

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