Amy Hund brings new language to THS

Holden Oswald, Editor

Topeka High School has started offering an American Sign Language class this school year. The class is taught by Amy Hund, who is a first year high school teacher but has 25 years of experience as an ASL-English interpreter. Hund first started learning sign language when she was 8 years old.

“I met a girl who was my age, and she was deaf,” Hund said. “I learned to sign to be able to communicate with her. As I grew, I met her friends, and their friends, and so on.”

She first began working as an interpreter in college classes, while she was still in college.

“At the same time,” she said, “I personally started learning more about ASL and interpreting. I had never intended to become an ASL-English interpreter, but it was very natural to me, and I enjoyed it.”

While Hund has never taught at the high school level before, she has experience teaching ASL to community college and university students. When she first applied to the school, she was applying for a different job.

“Topeka High students had a high interest in taking ASL,” she said, “and Ms. Morrisey and Mr. Arnold thought I would be a good person for the job.

“You should know that hearing people teaching ASL is controversial within the American Deaf community,” she said. “The preference would be for a culturally Deaf person with training in teaching ASL to teach. Unfortunately, due to several reasons, including systemic barriers, there are not enough Deaf people who are qualified to and who want to teach ASL in high schools or colleges. This is a nationwide issue, not just one we face here in Kansas. Our state commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is currently working on ways to make sure that Deaf people who want to can have access to become qualified to teach ASL in high schools and colleges.”

Hund thinks that taking the ASL class is worthwhile for students; But it can be challenging, she says.

“Like many things, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it,” Hund said. “ASL is just as complex, sometimes in different ways, than any other world language. Learning ASL requires focused practice in the classroom, but the few hours a week we spend in class are not enough to become fluent in any language. World language learners have to be dedicated to giving some of their own time to achieve the level of skills they want.”

Despite the challenges, Hund truly believes in the importance of the class. “American Sign Language has given me so much,” she said. “I enjoy sharing that with my students. ASL, and all second or third languages give your brain another way to think about things… another way to process the world. ASL is the perfect language to learn if you’re not sure about speaking another language, or even if you already do use another language–I have several students taking a spoken language and ASL.

“ASL is especially useful for people who are more visual,” she continued. “ASL is great for students who plan to go into service fields, such as first responders, health care, or teachers. ASL gives you access to another culture that you will encounter right here in Topeka, KS, as well as in many other places in North America and beyond. Some of my best friends, favorite people, and most exciting experiences have been with and through my knowledge of ASL–I can safely say that these would not be in my life without ASL.”

Hund wants all students to consider the course.

“ASL can make your life so rich,” she said. “I encourage anyone to give it a try.”