Massachusetts Daily Collegian

ASL scholar teaches American Sign Language to UMass students

Roughly 40 students attended the event

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(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

(Collegian file photo)

By Lisa S. Ladas, Collegian Correspondent

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Approximately 40 students attended the second American Sign Language workshop hosted by the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association on April 14. The workshop was taught by ASL scholar professor Ruth P. Moore in the Integrative Learning Center at the University of Massachusetts.

In the past, Moore has worked as an adjunct professor teaching part-time at Hampshire College for over 10 years. Additionally, she was the vice chair of Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf/Hearing Impaired and the communication access training specialist at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for over 14 years. She taught ASL at UMass, Smith College night classes and American International College. She has also taught Introduction to Deaf studies at Holyoke Community College. Now, she is retired and teaches the language for fun. Her husband, two sons and daughter are deaf, but her six grandchildren are not.

Moore began teaching the history of deaf studies, bringing up key names such as Thomas Hopkins, minister, educator and co-founder of the first school for the deaf in North America, Roch-Ambroise Cucurron Sicard, instructor at a school for the deaf in Paris and Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher. Sicard is known to have met up with Edward Miner Gallaudet, son of Thomas Hopkins, while traveling in England and invited Gallaudet to visit his school. Clerc later became friends with Hopkins and Gallaudet.

According to Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf in Washington D.C., “The two men set sail on June 18, 1816. The voyage across the Atlantic Ocean took 52 days; however, Clerc and Gallaudet put the time to good use. Clerc studied English, and Gallaudet studied sign language. They discussed the school for the deaf which they planned to open. On the long trip, they had many conversations about education and deafness. The year after they arrived, they founded a school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.”

After a little history, the class was quiet as Moore began teaching basic signs such as the alphabet, introduction of names, greetings, weather, numbers, family, food, colors and clothes.

Briefly after the teaching, students began to ask questions on note cards. One student wrote, “Does it matter which hand you sign with?”

Moore replied, “Use your dominant hand when signing.”

Other questions were, “How do you say dog and cat?” and “How do I say I love you?”

After the event, students shared their opinions.

Lindsay Hohenberg, freshman communication disorders major said, “I always wanted to learn ASL and thought this was would be a great way to learn the basic concepts of the language. Knowing sign language gives me the opportunity to communicate with people in the deaf community.”

Her favorite part of the workshop was learning about foods, how to ask different types of questions and “when we physically practiced using ASL in conversation with other people.”

Hohenberg also said, “I am grateful that NSSLHA held the ASL workshop promoting this opportunity to learn ASL.”

Erin Lally, junior communication disorders major said, “Professor Moore is such a great teacher. This is my second workshop with her. Moore always keeps it fun and interactive. I love having the opportunity to learn some basic ASL so I can feel confident using it in my life. I think it’s a great workshop and everyone should learn the ASL basics!”

Stephanie Gaglini, senior communication disorders major and president of the NSSLHA, played a vital role in getting the speaker and students together to make this workshop a success. Gaglini saw Moore at a conference and was impressed with her teaching style. She then thought that it will be beneficial to invite Moore to do a workshop with UMass students on ASL.

At the end of the event, Gaglini thanked everyone who attended her workshop.

“The ASL workshop turnout was great and it was opened to all student of various majors. Thank you to everyone who attended, not forgetting Professor Moore.”

Lisa S. Ladas can be reached at [email protected]

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