American Sign Language class at EHS taught by new deaf teacher

Dedeepya Guthikonda, freshman apprentice

Tucked away in a corner on the first floor of Edina High School is a classroom unlike any other. ASL (American Sign Language) is the newest world language class that is offered at EHS. Teaching the class is Mr. Knapp, a deaf ASL teacher new to EHS this year. When asked what makes ASL different from other world languages, Mr. Knapp said, “It’s a visual language.”

“In a typical world language class we still use English as a main form of communication, but in ASL we don’t use English,” Freshman Zoe Haise and Mr. Knapp’s student said. “I like using the no English rule. It’s fun to be able to learn a language and use it realistically in class,” Haise said.

In addition, ASL is a major step in bridging the gap between the deaf community and the speaking one. Without a communication barrier, the possibility to interact with and meet a whole new group of people opens up. When an ASL student encounters a deaf person, they are able to communicate and have a conversation with them, which they could not have done as easily before.

“When you take ASL at EHS, you can sign with someone at the grocery store, while you’re out shopping, even at the airport,” Mr. Knapp said. “In ASL 1 this is our first time using sign language, so it’s hard to communicate with the students. At the beginning, I have an interpreter, and we also use powerpoints or gestures, “ Mr. Knapp said about potential learning barriers.

“Whenever you think of a foreign language, you always think of a speaking one,” Haise said. “It’s important to realize that there are different ways to communicate. When you go out into the real world, you will know how to communicate with the deaf community,” Haise added.

Offering ASL at EHS is one of the first steps to merging communities together and giving students the opportunity to be part of a more inclusive and diverse world, where you are able to communicate and build relationships with more people regardless of their disabilities, race, gender, or religion.