February 28, 2005
Sign language is more than Lynn Foley’s passion.
It’s his native tongue. The Dobson High School teacher uses that to his advantage when he immerses his students into a new way of speaking five hours each school day.
Foley is one of two deaf sign language teachers in the Mesa Unified School District.
This month, he won a Silver Apple Award from Fulton Homes and KTVK-TV (Channel 3), and a $500 award he may just spend on more movies and equipment for his class.
It’s recognition a student who nominated him, and who aspires to follow in his footsteps, felt he deserved for inspiring her to learn not only sign language, but also the deaf culture. Foley spends the first two days of his class using a translator to instruct students, and then begins teaching in sign language only.
"I like helping hearing students recognize the deaf community and their culture," Foley said through a translator.
Mesa is ahead of many districts in offering a sign program at every school, he said. Seven years ago when he first began teaching at Dobson, there was one class — now he teaches six to seven classes each year.
"Many deaf people live around here, in the community," Foley said. He encourages his students to meet at weekly events that bring the hearing and deaf communities together.
Sophomore Madilyn Lake, 16, nominated Foley for the award after searching since elementary school for a deserving teacher.
"I was not sure how it would work, how a deaf teacher would communicate," Lake said. "I was very fearful as I didn’t know sign language at all. Now I can communicate very well."
Several students in Foley’s class on Friday said they sought out the language as a way to open communication with the deaf.
Kyle Clark, 16, signed up for the class to learn to sign with a childhood friend who uses sign language to communicate.
"Just because they’re deaf doesn’t mean they can’t communicate," said Devin Passmonick, 16.