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March 7, 2003

Language learning at Lighthouse

From: Journal Times Online, WI - 07 Mar 2003

BY PHYLLIS SIDES, March 7, 2003

RACINE -- Rubbing her nose with her index and middle fingers, Stephanie Besaw, 9, made the sign of her favorite animal, the hamster.

To do so, Stephanie was using American Sign Language she learned during a six-week Foreign Language afterschool program at Jefferson Lighthouse Elementary School. "I love rodents," Besaw said, rubbing her fist against her nose making the sign for rodents.

Stephanie and about 150 other students at the school learned French, German, Spanish, Latin and American Sign Language from 27 Park High School students.
"(The high school students) are sharing a great gift and also seem to be having a lot of fun," program chairwoman Cathy Behling said.

Waiting for their next turn in a sign language word game the girls talked about the program and the things they've learned.

Third-grader Laurel Hattix could sign a little when the program started six weeks ago.

"I really was interested because of Augie, a kid in my class is deaf. I think it's cool learning another language. I love taking sign. I'm teaching my family," she said.

Sarah Lucareli, who says she's 9 going on 10, also is taking what's she learned home. She's teaching her mother to sign and she's practicing with a neighbor who used to teach sign language.

Watching Ashley Nuter, a Park High School senior, lead the children in the Pledge of Allegiance in sign language, parent Mary Jensen said she was pleased with the program because her son Augie is deaf.

"He is the only deaf student in the school. And now other people speak his language," Jensen said.

The Foreign Language program was the idea of the Jefferson Lighthouse PTA. "We thought it would be beneficial to our students to be introduced to other languages and other cultures," Behling said.

Joy Maresh, a sign language interpreter at the school, said she's enjoyed the program and that student instructor Ashley Nuter did an outstanding job.

Nuter said she also enjoyed being part of the program.

"I had a lot of fun and it was exciting. The kids are very open and willing to learn. They're so smart," Nuter signed.

copyright 2002, The Racine Journal Times. All rights reserved.