Thorndon’s Sacred Heart Cathedral School has won an award from Deaf Aotearoa NZ for its support of Year 8 student Zoe Ferguson.
On 17 May, as part of the New Zealand Sign Language In Action Awards Gala 2014 at Te Papa’s marae, Deaf Aotearoa NZ gave Sacred Heart the NZSL in Schools Award for 2014. Principal Bill Turley and DRS Jane Regan received the award.
Zoe’s mother Bridget Ferguson said Zoe has had a wonderful experience at the school. ‘Staff took on the challenge of learning one of NZ’s official languages. Their attitude of acceptance and respect for our daughter’s language and culture has been amazing.
‘They have employed deaf teaching staff and a professional sign language interpreter to create a fully accessible learning environment,’ said Bridget.
The school chose NZSL as the alternate language for Years 5-8.
‘Our hearing son, Elijah, was in Year 5 and it was great his first language was respected and taught to his peers.’
Zoe is one of two deaf learners at Sacred Heart.
‘The teacher aide is a fantastic role model for all students; she is patient and supportive to the staff and hearing students as they develop their NZSL proficiency.’
Professional sign language interpreter Angela Murray allows Zoe to focus on learning and not on the struggle to lip-read and listen via hearing aids. In previous years, Zoe’s funding provided access for only part of the school week.
Last year, the Fergusons topped up the funding to provide full access to the interpreter. ‘It was the first time that Zoe was able to come home knowing what had gone on at school through the day. She knew what homework was due and when, why the kids at the back were laughing, and what the liturgy was about!’
The school established a sign singing choir, which often signs the songs for Mass at the cathedral – parish priest Fr James Lyons has learnt some NZSL, too.
Zoe has also been selected to represent New Zealand at the World Federation of the Deaf Youth Section Children’s Camp in Washington, DC. Fundraising is underway for the trip.