MONIQUE BATSON – PNGISD sign language class increases its impact – Port Arthur News



I have always been fascinated by American Sign Language. Around the age of 8, I came across a large book from my mother full of signs and tried to teach myself the language.

Born a Cajun, the long-held joke was that I can’t speak without my hands. But I wanted to learn to speak ONLY with my hands.

At the start of my second semester at Lamar University, I changed my major from Communication to Deaf Education. While my instructor could hear and speak, out of respect for those who couldn’t, she did not communicate verbally for the remainder of the semester. And although I wanted to excel in this class, I didn’t.

The challenge of learning a language from someone who couldn’t hear or speak was a challenge I couldn’t master.

So when my son told me he would be taking ASL III in his freshman year of high school with a deaf instructor, I was nervous at first. He started his first year when he had to choose a foreign language. The two before him opted for Spanish. But this one always walked to the beat of his own drum (it was a cliché hard to pass up, he is literally a drummer).

When he first chose ASL, I was thrilled. And he excelled at it. Each December, the big task was to sign a Christmas carol of the teacher’s choice. And every December, I would record him over and over while he rehearsed the song he was given. Eventually, at the end of his second year, he would sign every song on the radio.

It was a bit of a relief considering he had already drummed on the scoreboard for each song.

In April, PNGISD decided to hire a second ASL teacher. The class had become so popular that 140 students wishing to enter had to be refused. With this opportunity, they hired a deaf instructor. This would add a new level of learning to 3rd and 4th year students, already considered bilingual at this stage.

But at the start of his third year, I had flashbacks of my second semester at Lamar and was afraid my constant passing would fail. (Not necessarily because of him, but from my own experience.)

But I didn’t expect what would happen.

You see, until last year, he was determined to be just one thing – a computer programmer specializing in video games. In eighth grade, he was researching the enrollment criteria for MIT. He always dreamed big.

But soon after starting his junior year, he started talking more and more about ASL and how much he enjoyed the class. Although her teacher cannot hear or speak, she has an “emergency” interpreter in case a child needs one. But, said my son, it is seldom necessary. They not only understand and learn, but they really communicate.

“She’s so funny,” he said of his teacher last week.

And then, for the first time in his life, he made a decision that changed his life.

“I think I want to be an ASL instructor,” he said.

Gone are the boy who wanted to make the next big Fortnite. Gone are the boy who got variation of science project kits every Christmas.

Instead, I now had a 16-year-old two-year-old from college who wanted to dedicate his life to teaching others a language very few can use.

And all because our district realized that this class was not only popular, but served an essential service.

I still intend to learn the language.

But now I have a specific teacher in mind.

Monique Batson is the managing editor of Port Arthur Newsmedia and can be reached at


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