Teacher Learns Sign Language for Students - FOX 42: Omaha News, Sports and Weather; kptm.com |

Teacher Learns Sign Language for Students

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By: Leah Uko

luko@kptm.com

OMAHA (KPTM) – He has three years of teaching experience, but when he was hired at Iowa School for the Deaf, Scott Versch had almost no knowledge on how to communicate using sign language.

The newly hired Metal Shop teacher has two years to get up to and maintain the level he needs to be at in order to keep his job. Staff and students at ISD are confident this won't be a problem.

Communication is crucial when teaching more than 25 students how to weld. Especially when the students use sign language—and the teacher does not.

Versch said he has past experience communicating with Sign Language.

In high school he often attended classes at ISD when his school didn't offer them.

"As soon as you get immersed in the culture and you're exposed to it all the time, if you're open to it and you want to learn how to do it, it's not impossible," Versch said. "It's not hard at all actually."

Those experiences and his driven mindset contributed to the superintendent's decision to hire Versch.

"He's a very motivated learner," Patrick Clancy said. "I've observed him to really take some steps to get better fairly quick."

Clancy said the school provides an interpreter at all times inside Versch's classes just in case he needs help communicating with his students.

Versch said he tries his best not to depend on interpreter assistance unless he absolutely does not know a word or phrase.

"I want them to know that I'm trying. If I constantly cop out and I use the interpreter as a crutch I miss out on learning that sign."

D.J. Meyer knows that Versch was trying. The junior said he appreciates Versch's effort.

"He's getting better and better everyday and I teach him myself," Meyer said. "His style of teaching is fascinating to me and that's what made me come back to the metal shop again."

Versch is responsible for five classes. He is the teacher in four of them. In the other class, he is the student learning American Sign Language.

He meets with his ASL instructor every morning at 8.

"It's probably the best part of my day," Versch said.

"If there are certain words that I need help with, do I need to finger spell anything? Is there an easier sign for that?"

He took his first test recently. ISD teachers are required to qualify into the Intermediate level. Versch's instructor, Patty DeFransesco believes he will.

"Half of learning is really wanting to be able to communicate with students and with other people on campus. And so he's—you know he wants to."

Overall, he isn't worried about being short one skill set.

"I know the material and I know what I want to teach my students. And I think the important part is, or the difficulty on my end is trying to communicate those thoughts to the students."

He—and everyone else at ISD said his drive would take care of the rest.

Versch's test results should be in by the end of this week.

He also has his first parent-teacher conference coming up in a few weeks. He said he loves the positive feedback he's received from staff and students and is excited to hear from parents.

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