ASL Club members learn a new language

Sophomore gets new group up and running


Jenna Williams

Mrs. Cathy Dezelan instructs members of the ASL Club at a recent meeting.

Jenna Williams , Co-Editor in Chief

Many people are known for talking with their hands, but seldom are they literally speaking through their hand motions.

Sophomore Andi Manship changed this by forming the American Sign Language Club at the beginning of this year. The idea took root the second quarter of her freshman year, however.

Manship attended Mount Vernon before transferring to Cathedral, and she had intended to enroll in a sign language course offered at her previous school. Upon finding that her new school didn’t offer a similar course, she forged her own path and founded a club to enable her and others to learn a new language.


She said, “Fifth grade year, I had a student in my class that was deaf, so he had an interpreter. I started signing to him a little bit, and then I was in a signing club. Ever since I met that student, I wanted to learn how to communicate and I thought it was super cool to learn. It’s something that not a lot of people know how to do, but I think people should know.”

Manship sits at the front of the classroom in the after-school club meetings, to the left of the club’s instructor. Mrs. Cathy Dezelan, who teaches members American Sign Language.

A former Park Tudor teacher, Dezelan has been exposed to sign language for years.

She said, “When I was a little girl, I was very interested and I did learn to fingerspell then. Then, my husband had a cousin that was deaf, and I learned some more. Then, we moved next door to a girl who was deaf, and was a high schooler at the (Indiana) Deaf School. That was when I started taking a lot of classes because I wanted to be able to talk to both of them.

“When I was teaching at Park Tudor, I taught the early childhood kids and the elementary kids sign language so I kept taking classes. Since they loved it, I just kept trying to learn more and more, and then I could also talk to my neighbor and our relative.”

She shared that one of the tactics she has used in her time teaching the language is to practice songs. In the meeting on Nov. 27, the group learned how to sign “Silent Night.” She said after teaching the song, “I think singing does help reinforce the signs. Music always helps people learn better.” She said that it was a more interactive way to practice vocabulary.

Dezelan loves to sing in sign. “It’s like a ballet; it’s like watching a dance. It’s so beautiful and expressive.”

Manship said that at most meetings they learn sign language by playing games, practicing songs, watching videos and conversing.

Even from the beginning of the meeting, Dezelan signs while she speaks. This way, students are immersed in the language.

She said, “I think there’s a lot of reasons to learn sign language. Besides communicating with deaf people, if you know sign language, because you use facial expressions and body language, if you’re in a foreign country, you can communicate better with just a few vocabulary words than someone who isn’t used to using those skills.

“It comes in handy when it’s inappropriate or impossible to be talking.”

She continued, “For example, if you are scuba diving, you can sign and dive.” Dezelan’s own daughter and her husband have utilized this skill while scuba diving.

All ages

Sign language is used for all ages. Dezelan said, “Babies can sign before they can talk. A lot of parents are using that now, because it eliminates that frustration when they want to tell you that they want more, or that they want milk, or whatever, they can sign it before they can actually talk. It’s very helpful with babies.”

Some schools implement such a program geared toward early childhood.

She said, “Studies show that children who learn sign language at a young age have higher reading scores and higher vocabulary.”

Dezelan said she loved the wide variety of uses for this language.

Manship’s own favorite part is being able to “get other people who aren’t able to communicate to be able to be a part of the group again.”

American Sign Language meetings take place every Tuesday after school until 4 in Room 2304.