With the #ASLTA2017 (American Sign Language Teacher’s Conference) event underway it has been well twenty minutes pass six and it looks like the event will start off in the most traditional way within the Deaf Community: starting the event late and never on time. It is one of those traditions that has a long history in Deaf Culture and will, most likely, be a tradition forever as long as there’s ¬†deaf communities all over the world.

ASLTA History Explained

With over 500 or more attendees, this will most likely be the highest attendance ever that has attended ASLTA since it started in the 1990s, specifically in 1991. According to two history buffs, Keith Cagle and Bill Newell, explained that prior to ASLTA birth, the organization was actually known as SIGN (Sign Instructors Guidance Network). During the opening ceremony, both of them explain how, in super fine details, ASLTA came about. For more detailed information, check out this link.

Controversial Topics?

With the backing of four main sponsors, this event is likely to be able to elevate the importance of ASL and teaching it all over the United States. It is obvious that some of the heated topics might be teaching online vs teaching in person inside a classroom. The most obvious topic might be the topic that with the fast growth of ASL in the United States that the demand and supply for ASL teachers has already started lagging.

Other topics that will be discussed is voting for the new board officers since previous board members four year contract has or will expire. Speculation of those running hasn’t been confirmed, but we are waiting for more information.

Interesting observation the Deaf Women United Conference is happening at the same time as the ASLTA conference and wonder if that was a conflict of interests for some attendees? Nevertheless, that’s an whole new article for another time.

Opening Ceremony Glitters with Fun, Fashion, and Flying Fingers

With the opening ceremony, it started off with a hand wave with the crowd. No, wait. A double hand wave. Kinda like you see at a baseball or football game and it was quite amusing since it’s not the handwave that you use straight up, it’s a handwave while your hands are shaking back and forth! First, a guy doing a selfie shot was trying to get the crowd going. But had modest success. He was then thanked by the EMCEE Martin Price¬†and he started the Opening Ceremony for ASLTA Conference 2017.

He started by welcoming the guest/attendees and then took the time to do another handwave; this time everyone had to stand up and then he voted which section was the loudest. It was quite close.

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He then introduced Benjamin Lewis who introduced us to Kim Smith as the Conference Chair for ASLTA and then she had her team introduce themselves. Then we learned about the history of how ASLTA came about. Long story, but we don’t need to get into that. Actually, you can learn it by watching this video and/or reading about it on their history website.

The President of the ASLTA Conference, Arlene Garcia-Gunderson, introduced herself to the crowd and explained her background and why she took on the role as the President. Wearing a fabulous bright red beautiful dress, she honored Timothy “Timo” Owens and wanted to honor him for his recent passing and praise his leadership skills that he has done for the last several years until his passing. She then talked about several different issues with ASL and how we need to protect our children. She believes that we need to do more and to “push” ourselves to protect ASL, ASL Culture and ASL Community.

Arlene Garcia-Gunderson will not be running for re-election for President and hopes that whoever is the next ASLTA President will be able to lead with confidence and will continue that push with public policies that will allow and encourage parents to learn ASL.

Rosa Lee Timm as the Keynote Speaker

Rosa Lee Timm did an hour and half presentation on the topic of “ASL Musicality: Why it Matters”. She started out by letting the crowd know that she would be presenting and not “performing”. Rosa Lee Timm is well-known as the top ASL musical performer in the world. Her YouTube videos has been seen all over the world and she has travelled all over the United States to perform various musics, songs and poems. In her presentation, she shared her thoughts on how ASL has impacted her, her family, and her career as a teacher teaching at California School for the Deaf in Fremont and at Ohlone College.

She believes that music is an important part when teaching ASL at all levels, from K-12, colleges and believes that we should be incorporating ASL into music as much as possible. She is quoted as saying, “Music is personal”. Indeed, it is. She explained in her presentation that ASL with music can be use as a parody, life story, way of expression. More specifically, self-expressions that can be used using music, ASL and body language that is highly emphasize with facial expressions.

For more, please follow #ASLTA2017 (Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram!) to get the latest information, photos and videos for this conference!

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Thomsen Young

Founder of SG