Deaf GW professor pushes ASL studies

These are my superstars, Jay Shotel said, chairman of the Department of Special Education and Teacher Development at GW, of professor Steven Chough and his interpreter. Chough is one of three deaf professors at GW, and next semester he will become the first deaf teacher to instruct class at GW other than American Sign Language.

In an effort to raise awareness about deaf issues, Chough said he proposed earlier this year that GW offer a course on deaf culture in the United States. The new class, Deaf Issues and Trends in America, begins in the spring.

Chough said the course is designed for students who plan to become counselors, educators, special educators, social worker or speech therapists – but others can benefit too, he said.

I think it’s a good idea that GW knows about this class, Chough said using sign language. It’s important for students to learn about the social issues involved in the deaf culture.

The class will address social issues and touch upon deaf culture in the United States.

This course is essential for hearing students who want to work with deaf people, he said.

Chough said he hopes the class will help students separate truths from myths and facts from misconceptions students may have about deaf culture in America.

He said though the class is a step in the right direction, it is still difficult to find interpreters to aid deaf teachers in the classroom. While GW’s Equal Opportunity Office has accommodated him, it does not have the funding to pay enough interpreters for more classes, Chough said.

Chough will have two interpreters in the new class because two and a half hours is too long for one interpreter to work, he said. Chough suggested that GW offer a sequel to Deaf Issues – Deaf Culture – to develop a wider curriculum that could be expanded in the future.

Bob Seremith and Holly Roth are the only other deaf professors at GW. Chough said both professors have rich experience with more than 20 years in the field of deaf culture. Roth is the coordinator of the GW’s American Sign Language program, which includes three ASL classes.

A person who teaches Spanish should be Spanish, Chough said.

Chough said the new class would be possible without Shotel’s help.

To me, this acts as a bridge between undergraduate and graduate students, Shotel said. I’m very supportive because they do good work.

Always a strong advocate for the educational and mental health needs of the deaf population, Chough has served as a school counselor, clinical social worker and mental health program director in several states.

Chough said he has enjoyed teaching immensely.

I was fed up and burnt out as an administrator, he said. This is much better and very enjoyable.

He has received positive feedback from students in his classes and enrollment in sign language classes at GW continues to climb every year. Each section of ASL 1 has nearly 30 students, and 110 students are enrolled in one of the three ASL classes this semester, he said.

Chough encourages both undergraduate and graduate students to take Deaf Issues and ASL courses GW offers.

Students benefit from classes taught by deaf professors because they are immersed in what they teach every day of their lives and have first-hand knowledge of the subject matter. Ninety percent of sign language teachers are not deaf, Chough said.

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