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This 5th Grade Class Just Did the Best Thing Ever for Classmate Who’s Deaf

tammy alvin

Tammy Alvin

Middle school is a tough time for everyone. Honestly, it was one of the worst times of my life–I was most definitely an awkward kid (glasses, braces, a love for all things dark and gothy)–so you can imagine it was filled with many hours debating on whether or not I would ever feel like I belonged. One boy, however, has found a real home in his 5th grade class. And that makes my heart melt.

11-year-old Rhemy Elsey, who has been deaf since birth, recently transferred to Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois–the school made sure he had his own interpreter, Tammy Alvin. What he, or his mother, Patience Elsey, weren’t expecting to happen was this: His classmates started an American Sign Language club to communicate with him better.

Many, if not all, of his classmates had never been around a student who couldn’t hear, so this was definitely a learning experience in every sense of the word. Alvin, his interpreter, told TODAY:

“They were very determined to make sure the club happened. I loved the idea too, so I started to plan. It’s been fun to see him able to interact with his peers without the necessity of me being there to interpret for him”

The club, consisting of 12 students, has been meeting every Wednesday during lunch and recess since October, where Alvin teaches them how to sign. So far, they’ve learned basic phrases, like “How are you?” and “What’s your name?” Alvin also tries to keep the material consistent with what they’re learning in other classes. One student, Dezyrae Clarke, stated:

“Instead of learning a foreign language like Spanish or French, that I can use in the future, I wanted to learn sign language so that I can use it right now to talk to Rhemy.”

Of course, Rhemy has been a huge fan of the club since its inception, as it’s made him feel like he’s part of a community:

“It makes me feel happy to know they started a sign language club, because I looooooove sign language.”

There’s no better feeling than happiness–and to be a part of it is priceless. For me as a former teacher, it’s especially priceless to hear about students and teachers coming together to enrich each other’s lives, and of course, learn.


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