First grade class does anthem in ASL after learning it to support classmate who is hard of hearing

First grade class does anthem in ASL after learning it to support classmate who is hard of hearing

First-graders from Levi Leonard Elementary School in Evansville performed the national anthem using American Sign Language prior to the girls varsity basketball game against Beloit Turner on Tuesday night.

The class has been learning how to sign since the beginning of the year and is doing so as a way to communicate with one of its classmates, who is hard of hearing.

This is the first year the student has an interpreter in the room with him and teacher says it has changed his outlook on school.

“In kindergarten, he didn’t have an interpreter. His teachers really advocated for him and made that happen for this year,” said McKenzie Baumberger, who teaches the class. “I think he’s a lot more responsive than he was last year.”

Baumberger said that, when she learned the student would have an interpreter with him in class, she wanted to use the opportunity to involve all of her students.

“They were super responsive right away,” she said. “There was no hesitation, they jumped right in and began learning. They wanted to learn more. It was great.”

Sign language interpreter Jaime Keef works with the class and says every student has jumped at the opportunity to learn ASL.

“The kids use sign language on a daily basis, whether its to tell us they need to go to the bathroom, whether they’re communicating with the student who has the hearing loss or even if they want to share something with me but they don’t want other kids to know,” Keef said. “Every kid is using it, whether they have a hearing loss or not.”

Over the course of the year, the class used ASL to learn Christmas carols and the Pledge of Allegiance, but Tuesday night marked their first-ever public performance.

“I felt they were definitely ready. They worked hard and practiced,” Baumberger said. “I am so proud of all of them. Not only our class, but all the other classes that got involved – it was really special to see that and see them supporting a classmate.”

Keef said that, while her time as an interpreter has been spent with middle school and high school students, working with the first-grade class has been inspiring.

“I don’t have words,” she said. “I can’t wait to watch the performance back on video. I want to figure out how to buy every kid a doughnut tomorrow morning to celebrate what they did today.”

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