SIGN OF THE TIMES:
LEARNING TO SIGN
;;;;; ;;;;;;, a customer service
agent for Alaska Airlines, recalls
an interaction she had with a man
last year at Newark Liberty Inter-
national Airport. She approached
him at a self-service kiosk to ask
if he needed assistance. Instead
of verbally responding, he ges-
tured with his hands. “I felt bad,”
says Parros. “I knew a little [sign
language], but not much.”
For years, Parros had wanted
to learn American Sign Language.
Then, in April, shortly after thestate went into lockdown to helpstop the spread of Covid- 19, shediscovered a virtual class o;eredthrough the Newark PublicLibrary.
“I thought, Now’s the time,” shesays. Although still working, shehad some newfound free time.
She wanted to put it to good use.
She was not the only one. The
first virtual class on April 7 drew
more than 12,000 viewers from
around the world on Facebook
Live. There have been several
thousand attendees each week
since. After each free, one-hour,
live class ends, a recording is
posted on You Tube.
can be attributed in
part to the charis-
to the video
classes. Hard of
Halley was a language specialist
for nearly 20 years. Most recently,
he worked with children with
autism at the Phoenix Center in
Nutley. He also signs at Chosen
Generation Ministries in Newark,
where he estimates nearly 40 deaf
parishioners come to worship.
“I like Thyson’s energy,” saysParros. “He’s very energetic andpositive.” Often speaking andsigning simultaneously, Halleyhas taught students how to signeverything from the alphabet andnumbers to emotions and timelywords—like social distancing. Hebelieves his is New Jersey’s firstvirtual American Sign Languageclass.
Parros is excited to use hernew skills at work and beyond.
While riding the bus to the airport, Parros, who lives in Newark,often encounters people who aredeaf. She feels better equippedto interact with that population.
“I know how to say, ‘slow down’and ‘Repeat’ and ‘Again,’ if I don’tunderstand something,” she says.
Halley speaks of a health practitioner who sought out the classafter treating a deaf patient. “Shewanted to know how to sign, ‘areyou comfortable?’” says Halley.
“That really was very touching.
“If you can do a little sign
language, that will go a long way,”
he adds. “A deaf person’s face will
light up like no tomorrow.”
For Parros, the class has also
served as a welcome diversion
from Covid- 19. “I needed some
positive distractions,” she says.
She’s proud to emerge fromquarantine with a new talent.
“God willing, this will be overat some point,” says Parros, “andI can say, ‘During that time, Ilearned this.’”
"If you can do a little signlanguage, that will go along way,” says instructor Thyson Halley. “A deafperson’s face will light uplike no tomorrow.”
Jerri Parrossays "hello"in her newlylearnedAmericanSignLanguage.
The New Us