Fleeing Education

American Sign Language Class Gets Hit By The Global Teacher Shortage.

For over a year, there has been a temporary substitute for Dearborn High Schools (DHS) American Sign Language (ASL) class. As time passes, the class grows more and more at risk of being removed as an available course to take as the global teacher shortage worsens. The last actual teacher the class had, Elizabeth Shaw, had to leave the district entirely around Oct. 2021 due to unrelated reasons. Ever since then, finding a teacher for the class has shown to be extremely difficult for Dearborn Public Schools (DPS).

ASL classes are not the only deaf and hard of hearing support DPS offers though. Some students that are hard of hearing that attend DPS have individual interpreters in their classes. On top of that, interpreters are offered for any school gathering if requested by a community member. Despite this, the class still holds great importance to many students at DHS.

DHS world language department head Nawf Abou-Dib said that the class’s direction is not yet set in stone.

“Sadly, we couldn’t find a qualified teacher for the position,” Abou-Dib said. “Honestly, Mrs. Jebril made a big effort to find a qualified ASL teacher. She was contacting universities and retired teachers, but couldn’t find a suitable teacher for the position.  If we can find a qualified ASL teacher in the future, the program will reopen, hopefully.”

According to Executive Director of Special Populations for DPS Mike S. Esselily, the position has been posted throughout Wayne Counties’ teacher network. The district will remain attempting to contact universities and agencies to try and find a permanent teacher.

Esselily further explains the situation and said that he does not wish to see the class go.

“I hope the program thrives. I understand the nationwide teacher shortage has impacted the ability to find a full-time certified teacher. However, it is a great foreign language option for students,” Esselily said. “In addition, students who learn ASL do a great service to our death and hard-of-hearing community. They become an asset to humanity when they are able to interpret and communicate with people who are hard of hearing.”

DHS sophomore and current ASL student Keiden Kinnell said that the class is something he and many other students look forward to each day.

“I personally would hate to see ASL get removed as a class. I feel that it’s the only class I have a really strong interest in learning material in,” Kinnel said. “I feel the future kids who’d look forward to being in ASL next year would be disappointed if the class was removed. Most people in there usually are interested in learning and want to be a part of the language.”

In the past, DPS used to have a center-based program for the Deaf and hard of hearing but as participation in the program diminished, the program was canceled. The remaining students were sent to the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint, Michigan, or were just simply unenrolled and sent back to their previous schools.

DHS’s current ASL teacher  Joseph Moleski explains that sign language education is something that he believes to be very important to society.

“I offered to teach ASL this year because I am a former teacher of the Deaf.  My first 10 years of teaching were strictly teaching Deaf/Hard of Hearing students,” Moleski said. “I enjoy sign language and I would feel sad if they no longer were able to offer these classes at DHS. Sign language is truly a useful language as there are millions of Deaf or Hard of Hearing people in the United States.”

As of now, whether the class is being canceled or not is still up in the air but leans towards the latter accounting for the current stance. Edsel Ford High School, the only other DPS high school offering ASL classes, is also grappling with the same issue.