5th Graders Learned Sign Language to Talk With Deaf Student

Communication is so much more than words

Sep 4, 2017
Special Collections: THE ABILITY IN DISABILITY
Students at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois created a sign language club to better communicate with a deaf student. (Tammy Arvin)

Students at Mark Bills Middle School in Peoria, Illinois created a sign language club to better communicate with a deaf student. (Tammy Arvin)

When it comes to making an effort with those around you, age is really just a number.

Fifth grade students from Peoria, Illinois gave up their recess so they could  form the American Sign Language club and learn the language. While they undoubtedly enjoyed the fresh air and freedom to play, these fifth graders decided they’d rather get to know their deaf classmate.

Rhemy Elsey, a fifth-grader at Mark Bills Middle School uses sign language and the help of an interpreter to talk to his fellow students and teacher.

Rhemy’s interpreter, Tammy Arvin, teaches club members basic signs for food, clothing, and school. For both Rhemy and Tammy, the students’ determination to learn sign language was nothing short of heartwarming, as it can feel ostracizing for a student to have an interpreter follow them around all day.


“I was thrilled that they were interested and that they wanted to learn some sign language and that they were taking some initiative to be able to communicate more effectively with one of their classmates,” she told WMBD.

Aside from learning how to speak sign language, club members are also learning about diversity and how to create an inclusive community.

Arvin told ABC News, that the club is beneficial for everyone on multiple levels. Not only are they gaining a friend in Rhemy, but they’re also learning about deaf culture, and expanding their perspective of the “world around them,” a true win win.

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REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.

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