By: Jack Conlon—Correspondent
American Sign Language—SHS’s only two-year language course—has a new face who is looking to uplift the ASL program through her passion and love for signing.
After many years of working in the Sharon Public School system the previous American Sign Language instructor Dr. Albanese retired at the end of last year. Albanese’s replacement, Mrs. Dy Ashwell, comes to SHS from Delaware and is originally from New York. She has been teaching sign language for over twenty years.
Ashwell says she found her passion for ASL in the immersive environment at Gallaudet University—the only liberal arts college in the world to be entirely devoted to Deaf students located in Washington D.C..“We [students of Gallaudet] had to either find something where we would donate our time to the community or create something. So, I created teaching sign language to the surrounding hearing community in Washington DC—and once I started doing that, I loved teaching,” she said.
Ashwell says she was drawn to SHS from her first impression of the fellow staff and administration. “I met with people who work here at Sharon, and for that it was the easiest decision,” she continues, “I felt very welcomed, everyone was very warm and friendly and it showed that they valued me as someone who is coming to the table with her own knowledge and experiences,” she said.
Ashwell plans to use her first year to make a presence in the SHS community. “My goals for this year are to introduce myself to the Sharon community as someone who is not from here,” she continues, “I want to come to the community here bringing my knowledge of ASL and sharing that—hopefully sharing that—passion I have for ASL,” she said.
As for Ashwell’s long term goal, she says that she wants to bring the Deaf world and the hearing world together. “[Ashwell wants] To sort of bridge together more the deaf people and deaf community and the hearing community that exist here,” she says.
Aside from just learning the language, ASL students will now have an insight into the perspective that Ashwell brings to the school because of her experiences. “I’ve had the experience of being—feeling accepted and, communication wise, functioning in the hearing world, and then times of absolute frustration and feeling that communication and information is not accessible because I can’t hear it,” she said.
Ashwell says that she is optimistic about the potential future expansion of the ASL program. “I’m really looking forward to making all the classes go from one to four—all the levels,” she continues, “So, I hope to really branch out as time goes on,” she said.
“It’s a human right to communicate, and the right for deaf people to communicate has been taken away at times,” she continues, “To prevent that from happening and to fight for a better world, it’s important to know about deaf culture,” said Ashwell.