Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hinesburg man teaches sign language at library

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Communication was rich, the teacher energized and the class motivated. Teacher Don Petit-Homme, 40, of Hinesburg is deaf and can’t speak. He held a class in American sign language at the Brownell Library in Essex Junction for the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing on Oct. 13.

Petit-Homme is an accountant by day but has taught sign language privately for more than a decade. He now has a class of six for twelve 12 weeks. Through an interpreter he said, “I was really excited to expand and get more people in the class in a bigger environment. The reason I am teaching this class is to get more sign out there in the community.”

Para-educators Debbie LaDuke of Shoreham and Penney Griffin-Kimball of New Haven work at Mount Abraham High School in Bristol. They meet once a week with the group in Essex to better serve their students. LaDuke said of the class, “I love it. Don is a blast and so much fun. I would highly recommend people come to the class.”

Karen Taylor Mitchell, the director of development and public relations for the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing said sign language classes are offered throughout the state. “We’ve got more going on in northern Vermont than ever before,” she said.

Julie Gamelin of Milton attends the class because she has progressive hearing loss. “I recently lost hearing completely in one ear so I figured I better start learning sign language. Learning it has opened up a whole new world for me. It makes me feel better about myself and I really enjoy it,” she said.

Jennica Stetler of West Bolton said she sold vegetables this year at farmer’s markets in the region and was surprised at how many deaf people came to see her each week. “I just really wanted to be able to speak to them,” she said.

According to the Vermont Center for the Deaf more than 23,000 Vermonters are deaf or hard of hearing.

For more information visit www.vcdhh.org.