Kellam High School students are using American Sign Language to spread a message of togetherness during the pandemic.
Kathleen Lambert spent several weeks teaching students, faculty and staff how to sign the lyrics to “We’re All in This Together,” a song from the popular “High School Musical” movie. Lambert’s teaching assistants and a family friend were part of the team effort, which culminated with a YouTube video.
“My kids are multitactile learners, so anything that uses a different stimulus is be beneficial to them,” she said. “They thought it was the greatest thing to be in a music video on a YouTube channel.”
Students from five special education classes took part. They signed the lyrics and showed off some dance moves inside and outside the school. The settings included classrooms, hallways, the café, courtyard and more.
“I wanted each scene to look different,” she said. “I want people to smile and know that we are all in this together.”
Lambert spliced together 120 clips to make the YouTube video.
Her son’s girlfriend, Tricia Mueller, provided invaluable help. Mueller, who is studying American Sign Language at Rochester Institute of Technology, recorded instructional videos that Lambert showed her students.
Each lively lesson demonstrated how to use sign language to communicate a few verses of the song, which is full of inspirational messages: “We’re all in this together. When we reach, we can fly, know inside – we can make it!”
Every school day, Mueller looked forward to sharing her love of American Sign Language with students and staff.
“I smile every time I receive videos of them signing,” said Mueller, who will be an American Sign Language-English interpreter when she graduates in May 2022.
“During the global pandemic, we have found happiness through this experience,” she said. “The students are working together and learning a new way of communicating. I hope they see how far they have come and continue learning new signs every day.”
Teaching Assistants Alisse Owens and Marianna Parker are also a big part of the ongoing lessons. Students are now learning how to sign the lyrics to holiday music.
Lambert has been at Kellam for 23 years, but this is the first time she’s taught sign language to her students.
“It’s working different parts of their brain,” she said. “They’re learning and new way to communicate, and applying that knowledge by using their hands.”