WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

St Theresa’s sign language efforts win national award

July 2016  |  Hōngongoi

Youth, Schools, Education  |  Hunga Taiohi, Ngā Kura, Mātauranga

Chelsea McLaughlin

Award-winning sign language communicators from Room 4 at St Theresa’s School, Plimmerton.

Award-winning sign language communicators from Room 4 at St Theresa’s School, Plimmerton.

St Theresa’s School in Plimmerton has won an award for promoting New Zealand sign language after only including it in the curriculum since the beginning of this year.

A deaf student began in the new entrants’ class in term one, and sign language is needed to communicate with him. So we started a sign-language learning programme for our students.

The school received the ‘NZSL in Schools Award’ at the 10th annual New Zealand Sign Language Awards on 14 May. The awards acknowledge the efforts of those committed to the promotion and progress of sign language and deaf culture in New Zealand.

Deputy principal and new-entrant teacher Deborah Norris said the school was not expecting to win.

‘We were surprised because we’d only been learning sign language for one term,’ she said. ‘Some schools have been doing it for years.’

The pupils have been really enthusiastic about learning the language. Her class of five-year-olds spent all day signing, and have presented a school assembly entirely in sign. Morning prayers were done in sign.

The school hosts a sign-language club during Monday lunchtimes, which 35 to 40 children attend.

‘The children are giving up their lunchtimes for it. Its voluntary, they don’t have to – but there’s a good number who are really committed and come every week. The goal is that when our deaf student leaves school, the children who have grown up with him will be bilingual.’

Pupil Patrick Reiher (5) said he enjoyed using sign language. ‘It’s cool because you can talk through windows. If someone is far away you can still talk to them,’ he said.

Teacher aide Vinny Thompson said more and more people were realising the importance of learning sign language.

She believed New Zealand sign language would become an NCEA approved subject, so the pupils could continue to learn throughout their education.

‘There are people who need it – they have to use it. It’s not a choice for them. If someone in your family is deaf then you have to know sign to communicate with them.’