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Sign of other cultures.

Arlington (Texas) High School teacher Shane Hensley grew up with a deaf sister and deaf parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. So it is only logical that Hensley, who can hear, grew up with American Sign Language as his first language.

It is also logical that when his school district decided to add ASL to their language curriculum, Hensley would be just the person to teach it.

He is the third sign language teacher to be hired for Arlington's new program, a program that is growing in popularity among students. Two years ago, Carolyn Stephens, then a freshman at Arlington High, petitioned successfully to bring the language to the school. Hensley now has 150 students in five classes at both Arlington and Lamar High Schools.

"I am having a blast teaching the classes. It's all play time for me to teach my favorite and native language. We do activities, games, videos and lots of role play and practice. Charades is a big hit for practicing non-verbal communication," Hensley says.

Sign language was first taught in Texas as "a language other than English" in 1989 but has steadily been increasing in popularity since then.

Hensley says the benefits of learning ASL are the same as learning any other language, verbal or otherwise. "It broadens horizons, changes your world view and helps you to appreciate other cultures," he says.

Many colleges are also accepting the language for credit and many career options exist for those who have mastered ASL. The National Association of the Deaf "most certainly" supports the trend toward sign language in school, a spokesman says. nad.org, www.aslta.org

FAST FACTS

* More than 11,000 students are enrolled in ASL classes in Texas high schools in 2001-2002--Texas Education Agency

* At least 35 states recognize ASL as a modern language for public education--National Association of the Deaf

* There are approximately 250,000-500,000 ASL users in USA and Canada--NAD
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Title Annotation:Update: education news from schools, businesses, research and government agencies; sign language instruction
Author:Scarpa, Steven
Publication:District Administration
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Words:318
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