Communication is so important in everyday life and now, residents have an opportunity to expand their communication skills by participating in a free basic sign language class.

The class will be 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 8 through March 4 at Liberty Intermediate School, 1690 Career Center Road, Bourbonnais.

Instructor will be Jackie Hernandez, a teacher for 39 years, 33 of them with Bourbonnais Elementary School District #53.

Participants in the basic sign language class will learn some signs for the alphabet, numbers, people/pronouns, days of the week and months, verbs, food and eating terms, colors, sports, recreation and hobbies, thoughts, emotions and abstract ideas, animals, travel, holidays and location.

“On the first day of class I teach the Pledge of Allegiance. We practice that every class period,” said Hernandez. “I want attendees to leave this class being able to accomplish signing something that they are familiar with and that is said frequently.”

“I want participants to learn how to sign (expressive communication), but also how to understand what someone that is signing is communicating (receptive communication),” Hernandez added. “Hopefully this class will be a fun, interesting, entertaining, interactive learning experience for them.”

In addition, those participants who want to know a special sign to fulfill a special need, Hernandez will be available to teach them before or after class.

Hernandez taught a basic sign language class last year.

“I had students on my caseload who I was teaching sign language to. In order for them to be successful, I knew that their parents, families and friends also needed to learn it as well,” said Hernandez.

This year, she decided to repeat the class.

“I received a lot of positive feedback from last year’s attendees and I felt repeating the class would give a review and more practice for those who would like to attend for another nine weeks,” said Hernandez. “And sign language is a powerful teacher tool. If a teacher learns and uses even basic directions with their class, the teacher will have more control and students will pay more attention since sign language is visual. You must be watching in order to know what is being said.”

She added, “There are more and more individuals with hearing impairments and my hope is that the class would give attendees enough basic sign to be able and feel confident to interact and communicate with someone that they encounter that is deaf.”

And the class is important for the community to participate in because Hernandez noted that there is a shortage of teachers for the deaf and hearing impaired and interpreters.

“I can only hope that my class could influence or spark an interest in those that attend to become a teacher for the hearing impaired, an interpreter or at least learn some sign language to be able to interact with an individual they encounter that is deaf,” said Hernandez.

And she was able to interact with the deaf from an early age. Hernandez grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where her parents owned a restaurant.

Her father also worked at a local newspaper that employed several deaf linotype operators. Some of those operators would eat at the restaurant daily.

“I got to know them and became interested and learned sign language at the age of 10,” said Hernandez.

After graduating high school, she attended the local community college and earned an associate degree in aid for the handicapped. She transferred to MacMurray College in Jacksonville where she lived at the Illinois School for the Deaf and worked at the Illinois School for the Blind while obtaining a bachelor’s of science degree in deaf education.

Hernandez graduated in 1981 and her first job out of college was at the Illinois School for the Deaf and Blind in Glen Ellyn.

“I have been blessed over the years to work with a variety of populations, grades and ages,” said Hernandez who has held several positions in the district throughout her 33 years. “Throughout most of those years, I also would work with the few students with hearing impairments in the district. “The number increased 11 years ago and I moved to be the Itinerant teacher for the hearing impaired. I saw students in Bourbonnais and then was hired out to other districts (Manteno, Momence, Herscher, Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School and Bradley) over the years to work with their students with hearing impairments.”

“I love teaching, signing and meeting new people. This class will provide me with more time with some of my students, their families and friends. Since my class is open to everyone, I anticipate meeting and interacting with many new people,” said Hernandez.

For more information or to sign up for the class, email mcartor40@comcast.net.

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