Free sign language class for East Texans at Tyler ISD school

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 8:48 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Basic sign language classes are being offered to East Texans, and free of charge. Clarkston Elementary in Tyler has a teacher working to share the language due to the size of the deaf population compared to the number of people who know sign language.

Emily Woodbury stands in front of a full cafeteria of people eager to learn sign language at Clarkston Elementary School. Woodbury is a deaf and hard of hearing teacher at the school and said the sign language class has been around for about a decade.

“We started it more as a tool for parents to learn to sign and communicate better with their children,” she said. “Now it’s really grown into a whole community effort where people are coming to learn so that they can communicate with people that they meet along the way.”

Woodbury has assistants that walk the room to help better guide participants. Austin Woodrum and his wife attend the class. They wanted to learn something together and found out about this class.

“It’s basic words right now and then they let you get used to talking to other people, so we’re going to talk one on one with people. That’s the hardest part for me is reading somebody else say it,” he said.

Right now people are learning basic vocabulary words that you’d use around the house or in the community. Kay Danna heard about the class. She and her son come with a friend and her daughter.

“I have a son who has Down Syndrome and he has a speech impediment and I thought it might help us to communicate better,” Danna said. “Sometimes I can understand him and sometimes he can’t understand me.”

Woodbury said their school has the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. They shuttle in students from about seven counties. She said she wants to make the deaf community proud and share the language with others.

“We don’t want any barriers. We don’t want anyone to have a barrier for coming. So we allow children to come because I don’t want you to say, ‘Oh well, I don’t have daycare.’ We don’t want you to say ‘I can’t afford it.’ We don’t want any barriers as to why you can’t come,” Woodbury said.

The free classes meet in the cafeteria at Clarkston Elementary from 6 to 7 p.m., every Tuesday of the month. They are asking people to enter through the door on Fairfax Drive, located on the side of the school.

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