Teacher spotlight: new ASL teacher joins South staff


Anna Wittenkeller

Parker encourages the use of American Sign Language among all students at Plainfield South. “People usually think that it’s just for deaf people, but it is widely used,” Parker said.

After a long summer, uncertain if Plainfield South would find an American Sign Language teacher to keep the class going, one was found. Emily Parker is one of the new teachers hired this year, along with 34 others.

Without the hiring of Parker, South would have had to say goodbye to American Sign Language. Principal Yanello shares the difficulties in filling the vacant teaching position.

“We waited and waited because nobody was applying, and it wasn’t like people were applying, and we were interviewing and they weren’t good candidates; nobody was applying,” Yanello said.
“We were almost to the point where we were going to completely collapse the Sign Language sections and move those kids into another foreign language or elective,” Yanello said.

Parker’s goal at South is not only to have kids learn about Deaf Culture, but she hopes they become immersed in it.

“I want to have the opportunity for my students to attend more Deaf Culture community events rather than just learn about it,” Parker said.

During her senior year of high school, Parker lost her hearing, which changed the course of her future career from wanting to be a high school math teacher to pursuing Deaf education.

“I thought I’d pursue a career that I can do for the rest of my life, and then I started exploring Deaf Culture more, and I really fell in love with it,” Parker said.

Even doing something that she loves can still be intimidating at times.

“It was scary at first, because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, but that’s what comes with being a first-year teacher,” Parker said. However, the other ASL teachers in the district have been helpful every step of the way.

“The other ASL teachers have been great, emailing me back and forth and making sure we’re on the same pace,” she said.

Although she is a new teacher, Parker proves to have made great connections with her students already. Senior Marisa Kletzke, American Sign Language four student, comments on Parker’s style.

“Honestly [what stands out the most about Parker] I think it’s her personality; she’s very funny but that doesn’t take away from her being a good, determined teacher.”

Senior Vivien Flores, American Sign Language four student, shares her favorite part about Parker as a teacher.

“She fits in so well with our age group; she’s very relatable as a teacher, and it’s nice because it doesn’t just limit us to a student-teacher boundary. We can actually converse with one another,” Flores said.

Parker wants to remind students of Plainfield South about something important.

“ASL is a super useful language, and people usually think that it’s just for deaf people, but it is widely used. It’s a really great language for people to learn,” Parker said.