DEL VALLE, Texas (KXAN) — When the district couldn’t find a teacher for its new American Sign Language courses, Del Valle ISD turned to technology, bringing in a live teacher via video conference.
The classes are very popular at Del Valle High School, with 250 students signing up for the new language track. Three days a week, students log in to a virtual classroom to practice ASL with a teacher employed by the virtual staffing company Proximity Learning Inc.
Due to the recent addition of the language track in Texas schools last school year and the qualifications teachers need to have, the district couldn’t find an instructor to fill the position.
“Area districts are all competing for the same staff to hire,” DVISD deputy superintendent Dr. Annette Villerot said, adding that this virtual system is “the future of education.”
The high school’s new principal, Dr. Joseph Welch said in his long career in education across the country, Del Valle is the first district he’s worked in with an ASL curriculum. He tried to recruit a teacher but had no luck.
“I’ve reached out to people as far as Washington, D.C. to the east and as far as Portland, Oregon to the west,” he said. The video conference option was a good solution to keep offering the classes.
Not only do kids learn while they’re in class, but they can also take lessons wherever they go and have the ability to log into the classroom from their phones.
Junior Trey Washington told KXAN he left school for a dentist appointment but was still able to attend class. “I was sitting there signing in the chair,” he said. “I feel like there should be more classes like that.”
Washington said he’s encountered hearing-impaired people out in public and has been able to communicate with them. “I think it can be used anywhere that you go because you’ll probably come about someone and be able to help them get to where they want to be,” he said.
Dylan Gattis, a sophomore ASL student, also appreciates learning something that will translate to the real world, with Austin’s large deaf population, as well as the Texas School for the Deaf.
Gattis wants to be a teacher himself and sees an application for ASL there, too. It “gives me an extra opportunity to help maybe some deaf students,” he said.
DVISD administrators are encouraged by the students’ responses to the classes. “When we have students with an interest to learn sign language, that means that they not only want to be able to help others, but they want to embrace students with special needs and be able to have them as a peer group,” Villerot said.