An Interview with ASL teacher Shula

Ms. Solange Dichter, known to her students as Shula, teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at de Toledo.

Louis A Raynor

Ms. Solange Dichter, known to her students as Shula, teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at de Toledo.

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I sat down a few weeks ago with Shula–the American Sign Language teacher here at school–to discuss some of the questions I had about her experience living and working as someone who is deaf. I wanted to see if our community was doing a good job making her feel included and welcomed here at deToledo. We talked about her likes, dislikes, wishes, and her story–from discovering she was deaf to what she likes to do in her free time.

Many people think that being deaf ruins your life. The truth is it doesn’t inhibit you from doing anything other than hear.

Shula told me people ask her if she can drive herself places and how she is able to teach hearing students. To answer these questions: yes, she can drive, but she has to be even more aware of her surroundings because she can’t hear honks and sirens. She is constantly looking around for the lights of police cars, fire trucks, or ambulances, and if she sees other cars stopping or pulling to the side of the road she does so as well. In class she uses Power Points of pictures and signs what’s being projected on the board. One of the only things that tends to be a problem in class is when students talk behind her back because she can’t hear what they’re saying.

Another thing many people wonder is how she discovered she was deaf. When Shula was about one year old, her sister dropped a pan behind her and Shula had no reaction to the sound. Deafness runs in her family so her sister informed her mom what had happened. Her mom took her to the doctors and it was confirmed that Shula was deaf.

Shula truly feels that our school does a very good job at making her a part of our community, but there can always be improvements. She would really like to see more staff members learning at least basic sign language. She loves the staff so much and wants there to be no barriers in the way of their communicating. She would much rather sign to people than have to keep passing a piece of paper around. Also, she needs to be able to have a front row seat at every meeting, town hall, tefillah, and any other event. Her interpreters need to be able to sit facing her, so sitting somewhere other than the front would be hard for her and her interpreter.  

Shula would like there to be more alert lights around school in case of emergencies. As you have probably seen, when a fire drill occurs not only do you hear an alarm, but you see a light flashing. This light is one of the only ways Shula would know to evacuate the building if she were alone in her class. However, for instances like a lockdown there isn’t a light signalling her to lock down. This could prove very dangerous for her as she would be left alone in an unlocked room. She wants to feel safe being alone and wants to be independent from others. Shula can’t always be with someone at every given moment and this school should equip her room so she can feel safe as she works.   

Shula is completely open to people asking her questions, so if you have any questions go up to her and ask.

Here are a few important signs that could start your journey through ASL!

Hello. Hi.

Please.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Help.

Sorry.

I love you.