MANATEE -- No words need to be spoken in Christine Poyner’s foreign language class at Bayshore High School.
Poyner, chairwoman of the school’s foreign language department, teaches levels I, II and III of American Sign Language. Students throughout the county have eyed the class since Bayshore is the only school that offers the course.
“There’s a higher demand for this language because it’s connected to a disability,” Poyner said.
Although there is a higher demand, finding teachers who are certified in the course is difficult. Students from Manatee High School have enrolled in the Bayshore class to fulfill their foreign language requirement since the course was discontinued at their school. It was also discontinued at Lakewood Ranch High School.
“We’ve all shared kids,” Manatee High Principal Bob Gagnon said, referring to students attending schools outside of their zone to fulfill a class requirement. “We’ve got to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money.”
Requirements for teaching the class have recently increased, forcing former teachers of the course to quit. Certification is needed for the class and Poyner is the only teacher in the district certified to teach American Sign Language.
Much like a Spanish or French course, Poyner stresses the culture of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Students explained some cultural differences -- people who are deaf or hard of hearing normally don’t point, they say. It’s considered rude. They also make eye contact more than those that hear.
On Wednesday, Poyner’s Level III class met at 10:20 a.m. Students were working on their assessment test where they film themselves signing on their respective Mac Notebooks. Students in the class are conversationalists on an intermediate level.
“It takes years to become good at any language,” Poyner added.
By videotaping their assignments and tests, students can see where they are lacking, said Poyner, who teaches 170 students in six classes.
Student Josh Freeman, 17, got hooked on the class after his sister completed the course. He now has progressed to the third level.
“I learned the history of the deaf world that I never heard before,” Josh said. “I liked learning the language. I want to find a college to continue learning.”
Abby Adams, 17 is a junior who is hard of hearing. She didn’t know sign language before she entered the class more than two years ago. But, now she believes it will be her career choice.
“I’d like to interpret for the deaf,” the high school JROTC student said.