With no singing allowed, class 'signs' songs

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) — What started as a challenge from COVID-19 ended up being the perfect opportunity for a music teacher in Oak Forest.

St. Damian Catholic School enforced strict guidelines for in-person learning during the pandemic, requiring students to wear masks and stay six feet apart.

Administrators also told music teacher Lynn Kinsburgy that she and her students could not sing. Her solution: Have the kids “sign” the lyrics in American Sign Language.

“Boy, they love it,” the teacher said.

Kingsbury’s familiarity with ASL comes from her relationship with her three deaf aunts, the closest of which was with her aunt, Jean Hauser.

“When my Aunt Jean would come and visit us, she would want to hear me play the piano. I didn’t know how she was going to hear it,” Kingsbury said. “She put her hand on the piano and she could just feel the vibrations. Her eyes lit up and she was so excited just by feeling the vibrations, so that kind of blew my mind.”

Jean Hauser was also the first deaf pilot in the state of Wisconsin in 1965 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviator Hall of Fame.

Kingsbury told WBBM Newsradio’s Rachel Pierson her past has now come full circle with her career when she asked her fifth-grade students to write letters to Aunt Jean.

“Bringing that love and respect for the deaf community and bringing it into the school, it’s been really overwhelming,” she said.

Students ages 3 to 13 are learning family signs, religious signs and even the alphabet.

“I always greet them by saying ‘Hello’ the way you would in sign language, and they’ll see me in the hallway and they’ll show me the one-handed ‘I love you’ sign,” the teacher said.

Each year St. Damian holds a fifth-grade Nativity play, which will go on as scheduled this year. But now it will feature dozens of Christmas songs performed through sign language.

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