At first my fingers were awkward. They fumbled carelessly and sloppily like fiveuncooked french fries. I was in the fifth grade when I first dipped my fingersinto the endless ocean of expression and allowed my hands to grow a voice.
It began simply with the American Sign Language alphabet when a short,round woman came to my class on Diversity Day to teach us a few basics. Iremember watching her chubby fingers dance from word to word, and I left schoolthat day fascinated. My interest, though, was buried under a mound of dancerecitals and birthday parties, remaining untouched until my first day of highschool.
I remember my palms being sweaty as I wandered anxiously into herclassroom. From corner to corner, the walls were decorated with clippings andposters pertaining to Deafness and American Sign Language. Pictures of signinghands hung from the bulletin boards. I knew then that I had stepped into anotherworld.
Once the rest of my classmates settled in their seats, she began.She did not speak. Her hands flew about gracefully as she signed, "Hello. Myname Ms. Lewison. Your name what?" These signs did not make sense untillater that week, but still I sat upright at my desk, unable to blink. My entirefirst impression of her was silent.
As months passed, my class transformedfrom 12 independent teenagers taking a course to an unusually large family. Ms.Lewison was like our mother. When we were feeling troubled, we just let our handsdo the talking. We often had intense class discussions about world issues ...without our voices. It was on these days that the lesson became less aboutfollowing the curriculum and more about life. It was also then that I grew into amore sensitive and accepting person.
Ms. Lewison performed a tough task.She successfully replaced all that was ignorant in me with curiosity andtolerance. Then she took my open mind and opened it even wider and still foundtime to turn me into a fluent signer. When she left our beloved classroom to earnher doctorate and open a school of her own, she taught me that there are nolimits and my abilities are endless.
Today my fingers are stronger. Theyhave learned to dance and tell secrets that would never have escaped through mytimid lips. Ms. Lewison nudged me into the ocean of Deaf Culture. I stayed afloatand have become a strong swimmer in diverse waters.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.