A Voice Without Sound

Emilyann Meagher, Staff Writer

Some people speak Spanish, others French; but Lori Dyson’s passion has always been the words of her hands.

Mrs. Dyson learned sign language growing up with a deaf sister. This experience motivated her to teach ASL.

She received her bachelor’s degree at Texas Women’s University, and her master’s from Lamar University. Right out of college she knew what she wanted to do: teach.

“When I decided what I wanted to be, I either wanted to be in the medical field or I wanted to be a teacher- and I decided I wanted to be a teacher for the deaf,” Mrs. Dyson said.

In her 22 years of teaching, Mrs. Dyson has taught students in hearing first grade, second grade, fifth grade, and high school. It was when she was teaching fifth grade that Mrs. Dyson knew she wanted to teach sign language.

According to Gallaudet University, in the United States 2 to 4 out of every 1,000 people are functionally deaf, 9 to 22 out of every 1,000 people suffer from severe hearing impairment or are deaf, and 32 to 140 out of every 1,000 people suffer from some kind of hearing loss. But ASL wasn’t offered as a foreign language at Mrs. Dyson’s school.

Mrs. Dyson went to the department head of the administration building and asked if ASL could be offered as a foreign language. The budget was the complication – the school always needed more English or math teachers, not another language.

“After I started asking and prodding, five years later they said they finally had money in the budget to offer ASL as a foreign language,” Mrs. Dyson said.

She applied to teach in Grand Prairie after seeing the opening for an ASL teacher. Meeting with teachers from both Keller and Central, Mrs. Dyson was preparing.

“Like any other day I was nervous but being in a new setting made it more nerve wracking I think. But I was excited to meet the new students and it went well, it went really well,” Mrs. Dyson said.

Keeping the attention of the class was another dilemma; when signing, students need to keep constant eye contact to understand the information. With thirty pairs of eyes, she has to work to keep their attention.

Since taking over an old teacher’s position, Mrs. Dyson has to figure out the variations between their teaching styles. One person will sign one way, but another will make a small variation; it is difficult for Mrs. Dyson to know which sign each particular student used for each vocabulary word.

Through visiting her sister in east Texas, Mrs. Dyson stays connected with the deaf community. She admits that although she doesn’t go quite as frequently as she wishes, the connection stays there.

“It’s exposure to other cultures. Deaf people are going to be all over and you’re going to run into them at least once or twice in your life and so I think it’s a good opportunity to be able to understand their language, even on a basic knowledge level, and have them feel accepted into our ‘hearing world’ as they call it,” Mrs. Dyson said.