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Signing their way to fluency

Beginning next year, students at Estacada High School will have the opportunity to learn sign language.

When students were polled about what courses they were interested in, sign language received a high level of interest, and so it will now be among the high school's course offerings.

Ryan Carpenter, principal at Estacada High School, is excited to see the beginning of the sign language program. The high school will offer American Sign Language I in the fall and American Sign Language II in the spring.

“Our students have said they’re authentically interested in this,” said Carpenter. “We’re excited to give them options for what they’re interested in.”

More than 100 students have signed up for the class, which will fulfill a foreign language requirement. Currently, the only foreign language offered at the high school is Spanish.

“We’re excited to expand our offerings,” Carpenter said.

Jordan Collins, who studied sign language at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and education at Western Oregon University, was hired to teach three classes of American Sign Language I this fall.

She believes students will enjoy the language because it’s something different.

“It’s language and miming in one,” she said. “It’s so fun and fascinating.”

Collins said sign language uses a different part of the brain than other foreign languages do.

“It’s a visual language,” she said. “A lot of times we pick up what we hear, but it’s different to have to look at gestures to figure out the meaning of something.”

She’s excited to see students adopt the language.

“(Sign language) has a lot of silly facial expressions, and a lot of times that makes students nervous at first, but I think it will be good to see students let go of those nerves and make those faces,” she said. “It’s totally a part of the language.”

Carpenter is excited to see students learn a new form of communication.

“It will be really fun to walk down the hallway and see our students practicing these new skills,” he said.

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