Armstrong offers course in American Sign Language

By Randee May, Staff Writer

Armstrong offers French, German, and Spanish as foreign languages, but there is one other language students can sign up for, American Sign Language.

While the first book on Sign Language was published in 1620 by Juan Pablo de Bonet, American Sign Language was not introduced to the United States until 1816.

Before sign language, those who were deaf or hard of hearing were overlooked and neglected.

However, things have changed tremendously in the past few decades. Professor Barbara Kartman, the professor who teaches American Sign Language at Armstrong elaborated on the topic, “A lot has changed in the past twenty to thirty years. With the No Child Left Behind program, attention towards the Deaf and hard of hearing has skyrocketed. It also depends on how they grow up.”

Professor Kartman has been working at Armstrong since 2009 when she got a call from the school, stating they needed someone to teach the class.

Currently Kartman teaches in the evenings for Armstrong, but during the day she’s a full time teacher for Groves High School.  Kartman stated, “I co-teach everything from English, Economics, AP Chemistry, and Yearbook. My students are in the same general education classrooms, and they are amongst the top of their classmates.”

While places like Rochester New York have a high population for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, the population in Savannah is rather small. Kartman only has two students this year, while five has been her largest group.

When asked how she would like to spread the word about Deafness, Kartman proposed a club, “I’d be willing to sponsor a club with student interest. There’s monthly gatherings for the Deaf Club in Chatham County.”

The teacher of eight years, including her time here at Armstrong said, “I love the language, culture, and overall communication. To be able to open communication to people that can’t hear and speak. You get to include everyone. And it’s so much fun.”

Kartman has a laid back disposition when it comes to teaching,“I was able to sign fluently after three years and I teach in a ‘No Stress Zone.’ My beliefs are that if you’re stressing, you’re not learning. All education needs to be fun and interactive.”

Kartman encourages her students to bring friends and family to attend her classes.

Justin Huggins, who is not taking the class, but attended the session Monday evening said, “I know some sign language, but there’s nothing wrong with learning something new.”

Since the start of fall semester, Kartman has had four visitors to her class, including Huggins.

Kartman said, “I hope that my passion for the language rubs off on everyone and if infectious like a disease. I want to break the barrier so that people are comfortable. It’s not always about listening with your ears, listen with your heart.”  She continued, “To quote I King Jordan, ‘Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do except hear.’”

Kartman also added that not every country recognizes American Sign Language. They have their own signed language and it’s constantly updating like the Webster dictionary.”