ASL teacher bridges the gap between deaf and hearing communities | Texas
LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) – American Sign Language is more than a form of communication. It is a culture.
That’s what Lake Charles native and LaGrange High School graduate Tarold Gallien teaches his students at Westside High School in Houston and Houston Community College.
“ASL is a community with a culture that has a rich history and it’s impossible to learn the language without learning the story of Deaf people, their struggle, why things are signed the way they are” , he said through an ASL interpreter. “Learning about deaf culture, deaf behaviors, comparing deaf signers and hearing signers, there’s even black sign language. You have different dialects of sign language and it’s tied to cultures and that demographic.
Gallien said that to learn the language, you have to learn your culture.
“I had the opportunity to study Mexican Sign Language and after eating, breathing and sleeping that language for weeks, you really pick up on the culture and the feel of the people when you learn the language,” he said. -he declares. “It’s not just sign after sign after sign, there’s so much involvement and that’s what I try to instill in my students. If you want to learn, that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Gallien’s own journey as a deaf person has endowed him with a unique perspective on life that he says he uses to help his students – hearing and non-hearing – gain confidence in their own learning abilities.
“When you read a book, you don’t study one word at a time, you take the text as a whole. This is what I try to convey to my students. Don’t focus on sign after sign after sign, focus on the context and the message,” he said. “When we try to sign using non-verbal communication, we also use our body as a means of communication – like the expression on your face and the shape of your hands,” he said. “For example, the word ‘ball.’ There’s a sign for that, but the way your face is expressed, you can express joy. You don’t want to be stoic by signing verbatim. It’s hard to communicate that way.
Although he found himself in a profession he was passionate about, Gallien says he was initially hesitant when he considered teaching as a career.
“I remember when I was younger being voted ‘most likely to be a teacher’ and I always thought that was interesting,” he said. “It wasn’t something I was looking to do initially, but over the years and when I went to college, the idea crossed my mind and I thought I was going to maybe go to school.”
But that turned into time spent taking business courses, before he realized it wasn’t something for him. Then he changed fields to interior design, but in the end did not leave him as fulfilled as he had hoped. Then he tried social work, but said he didn’t have the motivation to stay there.
“I ended up in the communications business and that’s where I decided it was my passion and I was going to follow my instincts and it seemed to be going well,” he said.
During his senior year at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., he completed a three-month internship at Black Entertainment Television and after graduation he moved to Austin, Texas and worked as an advisor to dormitory in a school for the deaf.
“I was looking around and watching the teachers and seeing what they were doing and I noticed I had this internal dilemma – I loved communication studies but in the real world it’s a tough profession. I tried many things and jumped from job to job, struggling to find something that worked for me.
He decided to return to his home state and to the Louisiana School for the Deaf – a school he once attended.
“I didn’t have my certification at the time, but I was able to get a feel for it and see if teaching was something I loved and did,” he said. . “I worked there for six years and it was like my sabbatical. I was looking for myself and in the end I was able to decide to make teaching my profession, specifically oriented towards the education of the deaf.
“As soon as I got my certification and graduated, I started working and never looked back. I’ve been an ASL teacher for 21 years, I’ve also worked as a teacher in the education of the deaf and I have also worked in high schools with hearing students It is a challenge but in my career and especially in the last five years working with hearing students and teaching them the ASL, I really enjoy seeing students succeed and being a good role model to show students my point of view.
He said his favorite experience so far was working with deaf students to help them gain confidence in their ability to learn and see when things clicked for them.
“Pulling this from the students was a highlight,” he said. “I love helping students not be complacent and do more and better. I feel like when I compare the different roles I’ve had the privilege of having, I feel like it’s the most fulfilling.
Gallien said that when he was a student, his communication options were limited.
“Times have definitely changed,” he said. “I would really like to have text messages on my side to help me communicate; I had a pen and paper.
Gallien said that during the pandemic he felt the world had turned upside down.
“We were preparing for spring break, and then suddenly everything is remote and we’re preparing for virtual learning,” he said. “It was a big challenge, the transition to everything being on a computer and my thoughts were, ‘How am I going to connect to students through a screen?’ There were a lot of challenges but I took my time and made sure to communicate with the students and made sure their cameras were on during class as we needed to see each other to connect. find some kind of groove and I used what I had. We made it work, but I’m happy to be back teaching in person.
Gallien said he loves being able to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing communities.
“Life is about being open-minded to embrace new cultures and experiences and being willing to change,” he said. “That’s what I share with my students and my life is very fulfilling.