Lakeland students sign for Christmas

Published 9:40 pm Thursday, December 26, 2019

Lakeland High School’s “Talking Hands” American Sign Language Club performed Christmas classics for Suffolk elementary schoolers on Dec. 19-20.

The club visited Nansemond Parkway, Northern Shores, Pioneer and Booker T. Washington elementary schools in Suffolk to sign Christmas music to children, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. On Dec. 20, 18 ASL Club students performed for more than 100 Booker T. Washington Elementary School students in the school auditorium.

ASL Club members wore their “Talking Hands” shirts and pajama pants as they delivered a wonderful, “over-the-top” performance for the elementary school students, Lakeland High School ASL Teacher Anita Fisher said.

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“They really, really did good,” Fisher said. “It’s amazing. They start practicing at the beginning of October, and we listen to these Christmas songs over and over and over again. But when it comes to this, they put their whole heart into it.”

The Talking Hands performed a dozen Christmas songs for the students, including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

The children chuckled during Lakeland junior Nevaeh Byrd’s solo performance of “All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” and cheered when junior Rhiannon Colley, 16, was joined on the stage by Santa Claus.

The young students enjoyed learning how to sign “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to one another and also enjoyed watching their own Booker T. Washington Elementary School teachers participate in the show. For “The 12 Days of Christmas,” faculty stood in front of the stage with picture cards for each day in the song, and the Talking Hands signed each French hen, turtle dove and more.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School Principal Chanel Woods said her students enjoyed the performance, which was both festive and educational.

“They enjoy the performance because they heard familiar holiday songs, and were able to incorporate some basic sign language with the lyrics,” Woods said. “It’s a great way to kick off our last day before winter break.”

Each ASL Club student introduced themselves to the elementary schoolers by their first name, which they signed to their young audience.

This is the second year that Lakeland High School sophomore Joseph Robinson-Churchville, 15, has been in the ASL Club. He said he enjoys watching the children’s faces light up during each performance, especially when St. Nick takes the stage.

“Sometimes they can be a little talkative, but when Santa comes out and their faces just light up, it makes everything worth it,” Joseph said. “They really do enjoy watching us perform, and they do enjoy seeing Santa come out. Sometimes they’ll clap along and sing along with the songs. I feel like it just lightens up their mood, even if they were having a bad day in school.”

Savanna Smith, 17, is a Lakeland senior with plans to become a sign language interpreter. She said the best part of these performances is making Christmas connections to children that otherwise could not have enjoyed Christmas music, like some of those at Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

“The best part definitely of having deaf children in the audience is being able to see their face light up, and be able to bridge that connection for them, that language would otherwise have prevented them from enjoying,” Savanna said. “That’s also why I want to become an interpreter, because I personally want to be able to help in my own way, and be able to extend language and songs to people who can otherwise not enjoy it.”