Free sign language lessons available in Gee library

Julia Carpio

For those who are interested in learning sign language, look no further than the second floor of Gee library where Denise M. Smith gives free lessons to students on Wednesdays at 11:00 and Thursday afternoons at 1:00.

For the past three years, Smith has donated her time to teaching students and adults the basics of sign language.

“We start with the alphabet and then go to finger spelling,” Smith said. “You can always spell what you don’t know. [After that] we learn signs, sentences, and then we start conversation.”

With a beginner class and an advanced class that consists of two returning students, Smith said that classes seem so go over really well.

“We usually start out with about seven [students] and it usually goes down to about five due to scheduling conflicts,” she said.

Smith graduated from West Texas State University (West Texas A&M University), with a Bachelor’s degree in speech therapy, but that is not the only place she learned sign language.

“I had a unique experience growing up,” she said. “They opened up a deaf college right next to the college I went to. It had 20 students the first year. I took classes there, I dated a deaf guy and I had deaf friends.”

Not only is she experienced with using sign language, she also has experience in teaching. She has taught students from ages two to 82, but said none learn faster than college students.

“I thought it’d be neat to teach college students,” she said. “It’s gone over really well. It amazes me how quickly college students pick it up.”

When Smith is not volunteering her time to teach sign language, she can be found substitute teaching or gardening in Campbell. She also helped her father during his final years.

“My dad passed away about a year ago,” she said. “I’m working on putting his military history in a book.”

Smith said she enjoys the time she volunteers at Texas A&M University-Commerce. It is all to benefit the students.

“Everyone enjoys it,” Smith said. “You get to learn how to communicate with deaf people.”
Sign language is the third most used language in America and Smith said that she still has not stopped learning.

“It’s a really fun language,” Smith said. “You’re still learning all the time.”