Video+Story: Students, Parents Shine in EPISD’s Signing Bee

Not all spelling bees require a voiced response.

On Thursday, students in EPISD’s Regional Day School for the Deaf showed off their American Sign Language skills at the annual Signing and Reading Bee at Hillside Elementary.

Kinder through third-grade students participated in the Reading Bee, which asked contestants to sign or speak words displayed on a screen using American Sign Language, or ASL. Older students used their hands to spell words that were signed to them using ASL.

“Our students have spent a long time perfecting their ASL skills and today they showcased just how far they have come,” said Jason Lilly, the facilitator for the Regional Day School for the Deaf. “It’s great to see students participate and parents engage in an activity as essential and fun as a spelling bee.”

First place in the signing competition went to fifth-grader Ruben Lazo, who beamed with pride each time he spelled a word correctly. As he walked back to his seat, he would show a big grin and give thumbs up to the crowd.

“We practiced in the classroom, and I studied with my parents. They would watch me and practice with me at home,” he said with the help of an interpreter. “I was very excited because all of us did good, but first place is better.”

Lazo and other winners were awarded medals and certificates by members of the Del Norte Lions Club. THe Lions Club has long been a supporter of individuals with sight and hearing challenges.

Third-grader Aylin Rios showed off the silver medal around her neck.

“We have been practicing for weeks,” she said. “It was fun. I feel happy I got second place.” 

The students were not the only ones signing on Thursday, however. The event featured a contest for parents, who also are learning ASL in order to communicate with their children.

“We really wanted to make sure we are involving the parents because that is going to be the biggest indicator of student success, particularly for deaf and hard of hearing students,” Lilly said. “The students are getting the language here at school, but we want to make sure they are getting it at home as well.”

The school offers free ASL classes every Monday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“Parents are learning important phrases 0they are going to be using them at home with their children,” he said.

Parent Jacqueline Paz, the mother of a pre-k student in the program, has noticed a big difference since she started attending the sign language classes.

“It has helped tremendously. She has cochlear implants, so we would just try talking, but she was very frustrated,” she said. Learning to sign we have found a way to communicate. It’s been amazing for our family. I’ve seen her grow so much.”

Paz’s tenacity and dedication to her daughter earned her first place in the contest.

“I feel proud because there was a time I thought it was so hard but coming every week I have learned so much,” she said. “I am so thankful for our school and our community. It’s so tight-knit, and everyone is so helpful. It feels so good to have parents and teachers that come together for the sake of our kids.”

Story by Alicia Chumley / Photos by Leonel Monroy / Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD