‘Future in teaching’: Teen teaches 4th graders sign language pledge


Woodland High School American Sign Language student makes video to teach elementary students

Jaylee Graham, a sophomore at Woodland High School, created a video to teach fourth-graders how to sign the school pledge (Woodland High School).

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of fourth graders in Woodland, Washington, can now communicate their school’s pledge using American Sign Language (ASL) thanks to the help of a local high school student.

Woodland High School sophomore Jaylee Graham was enlisted to teach Carey Hanson’s fourth graders at Columbia Elementary School how to sign the school’s Woodland Way pledge via a tutorial video, according to a release.

Hanson said she wanted the students to be able to communicate the school’s pledge in more ways than one to reinforce the pledge’s themes of making good decisions and exhibiting good behaviors.

“I like to have my kids recite the Woodland Way immediately following the flag salute so the concept of making appropriate choices at school and home are forefront in their minds,” said Hanson. “I wanted to make the pledge even more meaningful, so I figured ASL would be the way to go.”

Hanson tapped Kim Novak, Woodland’s ASL teacher, for help. In turn, Novak asked her student, sophomore Jaylee Graham, to record a video teaching the elementary school class how to sign the pledge.

Kim Novak teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at Woodland High School. Photo is from pre-pandemic times (Woodland High School).

““The video was perfect – Jaylee was so great in the video that she has a future in teaching if she wishes,” said Hanson. “The kids think being able to sign the pledge is so cool and I’ve posted the ASL alphabet in my room so my students can learn more whenever they want to.”

Graham was connected to Hansen through Novak to arrange making the video.

While she’s still mulling over just what she wants to do after high school, Graham said she has considered becoming an educator like her mother and grandmother.

“Making the video was a great project to help me give education more thought,” Graham said. “I think the most challenging part of making the video of myself signing was having to watch myself and try not to mess up.”

Graham said she enrolled for ASL at the high school because the father of one of her brother’s friends is deaf.

“I had always wanted to find some way to talk to him and now I can,” she said. “Another reason I wanted to learn sign language is that it’s a very fascinating language.”

Hanson, who previously didn’t know ASL but always wanted to learn, said students have been more engaged in her classroom since learning to sign the pledge.

“I’m always looking for ways to include movement, interest, and fun in my class so this seemed perfect as it’s also something my students will always remember and may continue to do.”

Hanson said it was encouraging to her students to have them learn alongside her. She said she plans to introduce more ways of saying pledges to her students, liking being able to say the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. Columbia Elementary is home to the district’s Dual Language Immersion program.

“Hopefully, one day we’ll be able to recite both pledges in English, Spanish, and ASL.”

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