Bearden’s American Sign Language program offers unique world language credits to students


Julia Bryant

Sophomore Mikayil Birdal laughs as ASL teacher Ms. Karen Latus cracks a joke during class.

Lydia Battey, Staff Writer

Bearden introduced American Sign Language as a new foreign language class at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

The class is currently taught by Bearden Spanish teacher Ms. Karen Latus.

The class was initiated when the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation in 2017 which recognized American Sign Language as a world language. The legislation allows students to earn credits that fulfill their world language requirements for graduation.

Ms. Latus is already established at Bearden as a Spanish teacher, but many of her students do not know she majored in Sign Language Studies at the University of Michigan. Ms. Latus has an extensive background working in disability services at her alma mater captioning and platform interpreting. She has even taught a deaf student Spanish using ASL.

Ms. Latus is using her unique background and her love of teaching to troubleshoot some of the issues she has faced with the class.

“In ASL, you have to be able to see everybody,”  said Ms. Latus, who taught sections of ASL 1 in the fall and is now teaching ASL 2 this semester.

“We had to struggle through figuring out class sizes, and we don’t have any resources.”

Ms. Latus appreciates the hard work, and she tries her best to create the best possible learning environment for her students. Recently, Ms. Latus has done this with the assistance of Dr. Philip Zazove, the third deaf doctor in the world and the head of medicine at the University of Michigan.

Ms. Latus knew of Dr. Zazove since her work in disability services and reached out to him to see if he would be interested in letting her students interview him over Skype. Dr. Zazove agreed, and the interview is set to happen during ASL 2’s health and medicine module in April.

“This is an experience that not every ASL student gets to have in this country,” said senior Camilla Fielder, who is taking ASL 2. “It’s like we’re one in a million; it’s going to be super awesome to get to talk to him.”

Ms. Latus is currently teaching ASL 1 and 2, and the classes will be available for students to enroll in for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.