|  Volume 1, Issue 1 May 2003  |  William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor

Welcome to a New Source for Teaching and Learning

Introducing ASL Pah!

pah: (pä) interj.  [ASL1. Success or achievement. 2. Used to indicate the attainment of a desired result or outcome. 3. Finally!

Why ASL Pah?  For years people have asked me to put them on my mailing list.  ASL students and teachers alike are hungry for details, ideas, new approaches, proven methods, and free materials. 

I remember my first ASL class.  Growing up hard of hearing, I had always wanted to learn ASL.  Hard of hearing kids tend to retreat into activities that don't require a lot of spoken communication and I was no exception. Reading was my main activity and so I spent considerable time at the library.  One day I noticed a free ASL class was being offered at the library.  The instructor turned out to be a Deaf woman by the name of Kathy Hadfield. (She later married Mark Erwin of Brigham City, Utah).

Kathy didn't have a "curriculum."  All she had was enthusiasm.  It was enough.  I was hooked and have been learning ASL ever since. 

I went through an intense nine-week ASL immersion program in Provo, Utah. Then I traveled to several states and lived with Deaf roommates, and hung out with Deaf people while doing volunteer work.  Some of the places I volunteered include the the GLAD Orange County Outreach in California, the Indiana School for the Deaf (as a teacher's assistant in Laura Gaalema's third grade class),  the (former) Indiana Branch Office (anybody remember that outfit?) of the National Association of the Deaf, and many other places. I lived on-campus at Gallaudet University for a summer. I took night classes at the Oregon School for the Deaf (Salem). I've studied ASL at four different colleges, including hundreds of hours at California State University Northridge.

I remember teaching my first ever ASL class at a local church for free.  I had no real idea what I was doing. Parents used to drop off their kids and drive away--thrilled to have a free a baby sitter.  Obviously I had a lot to learn.

I remember teaching my first college class. I taught that one for free too.  I had approached the department chair.   He had a list of reason why I couldn't do it.

The department Chair:  You don't have a degree.
Me:  I've asked [the regular teacher]. He has agreed to mentor me and supervise the class.
The Chair:  We don't have any money to pay you.
Me:  I'll teach it for free.
The Chair:  It is too late to get it in the catalog.
Me:  I'll post flyers.
The Chair:  There won't be enough students register to make it go.
Me:  I did a survey and have several pages of names and contact information of interested students.
The Chair:  The dean will have to approve this: 
Me:  I'll get his approval.

And I did.

The class was so large they had to put it in a lecture hall.  I taught it using the old "ABCs of ASL" book.  Worked my tail off.  Got good evaluations.

Then I asked the department let me teach as an adjunct.  They indicated that there still wasn't any money.  After a bit of investigation I found that the Department of Continuing Education would be delighted to pay me as long as the class filled. I asked "How many students is that?"   They informed me it had to be at least 16.  I smiled knowing that they would be amazed come registration time.

And so I taught my first paid college course to a group of middle aged women. Or at least it seemed to me they were middle aged.  Let's just say, I was the youngest person in that classroom.  I was a college sophomore at the time. 

It wasn't long before I took out a business license, hung a shingle, and posted an ad in the yellow pages.  This was back when the yellow pages were really yellow--and really on pages (paper).  It's been a wild, enjoyable ride ever since. 

We can take ASL acquisition to a new level.  And have a great time doing it. Really!  I once won a bet that I could teach a complete novice the fingerspelled alphabet in under five minutes and have her successfully repeat it back to me. I had a great time pushing her to her limits.  She had a great time rising to the challenge. Most of people at that sign language party didn't think it could be done but there was no doubt in my mind.  There is also no doubt in my mind that together we can and will create a great ezine!

There is so much to tell you:  The no-voice excursions to Disneyland, the government contracts, setting up a studio, setting up an ITP, lobbying for ASL as a foreign language, making my first video, self-publishing my first book, finding a deaf wife, selling the house and going back to school, writing a dissertation, developing a "discourse-based" approach to ASL instruction, and teaching what I believe is the first college-credit beginning-level internet-based ASL course in the world.

And I will tell you about those things in the pages of future newsletters.

But first, I want to hear from you.

I want to know what it is that you want to know. 

What's important to you?

Give it some thought.  Ask yourself:

"What information or material would I be excited to see show up in my mail list?" 

"What kind of advice would I like to get?"

"What type of materials could I really use?"

I believe we can all learn from each other.  No matter how much I learn, I can always learn more.  What is it you can share?

Ask yourself: 

"Is there any information I'd like to share with other ASL students and teachers?" 

"Have I had some sort of experience or success that I think would inspire others in their studies or teaching?"

"Is there something my ASL instructor does or doesn't do that I particularly like?"

Then send your questions, comments, and suggestions to:  (contact info)

I'll summarize the results for you in the next edition. (Note: I love you all, but work for a living--so I may not be able to personally respond to every email.)

That's all for now.

Take care,


(William Vicars, ASLTA, Ph.D.)

American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars