Hello, my name is Valerie Johnson, but most people call me simply "Val." I first learned sign language in 1986. I loved it! That same year, I began teaching sign language to others and also made my first Deaf friend. In 1995, I returned to college and earned a B.A. in Sign Language Studies (1998). Then, in 2003, I took an educational leave from my job at Ford Motor Company to go back to college once more, this time to prepare for the State Certification test for Michigan. Along the way, I continued to teach. I have taught children, senior citizens that were losing their hearing, foster parents who wanted to be prepared for a Deaf child they might foster, churches, and at schools. I really want the whole world to sign!
In my class, you will learn the difference between the Modes of Communication, such as Sign English and the actual language, American Sign Language or ASL. Also, Sign Language vs. ASL.
The student will learn how to communicate with members of the Deaf Community right from the start, but ultimately, it is up to the student that will determine how quickly or how slowly they learn. Practice, practice, practice is key.
I feel I have a unique teaching style in that no matter how fast someone picks up or how long it takes, I try to meet the student right where they are. When I see someone getting overwhelmed, then I may have to slow my pace. If I see another student not being challenged enough, then I may give them more challenging work to do. I know that ASL can be intimidating, but I try to make each class fun and enjoyable and have had a lot of success with my students down through the years.
In my class, you will also learn a little about Deaf culture, which is very critical. You will learn about anger in the Deaf Community--why it exists and why does the Deaf person you just met in the store want to have nothing to do with you. This is critical to the learning process.
When we initially meet in our first session, I will talk with the student to find out their goals. Experience has taught me that every student that takes ASL has a different reason for wanting to learn. Whenever I ask, "Why do you want to learn ASL?" the responses vary from "I thought it would be fun" to "I want to be able to communicate with a Deaf person I might meet in the store" to "I have a Deaf relative." This will help me to know which direction to take with the students.
I encourage others to CELEBRATE the Deaf Community and at the same time EDUCATE the hearing population. I share often that "Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do, except sign." (I. King Jordan, the first Deaf president of Gallaudet University, the largest liberal arts university for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals).
I hope you will sign up and continue to sign up for a 1-on-1 session today!
Learned how to communicate with the Deaf Community and about Deaf Culture.
American Sign Language Interpreter/Instructor
Atlanta Technical College; freelance work - Georgia: Atlanta, Acworth
Interpreted for Deaf students at Atlanta Technical College. Also, taught ASL to students at several churches and students via Skype.
2003 - 2013
Sign Language Interpreter/Instructor
Various agencies - Michigan: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Belleville, Dearborn
Interpreted for various agencies. One of the agencies hired me to teach sign language to senior citizens that were losing their hearing. During this time also, I taught court-appointed sign language classes to a grandmother and her three grandchildren. At the end, I gave the court my recommendation.
2003 - 2003
Interpreter Education Program Certificate
Washtenaw Community College - Ann Arbor, Michigan
This Program prepared me to become a State Certified Sign Language Interpreter for the State of Michigan.