Sophomore Alyssa Valverde (left) and Savannah Rosenzweig (right) review the ASL alphabet with club members.

Self-taught signer sets up ASL Club to help high schoolers understand sign-language basics

Keshav Anand
Sophomores Alyssa Valverde (left) and Savannah Rosenzweig (right) review the ASL alphabet with club members.

Sophomore Alyssa Valverde has started a weekly American Sign Language (ASL) club with high school Latin teacher Jane Batarseh as faculty adviser.

“I really love sign language,” Valverde said. “I want to be able to sign to someone who knows (ASL) because there (are) not many people out there who know sign language.”

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays at lunch, some club members (such as freshmen Elise Sommerhaug, Erin Wilson and Hana Lee) teach while others learn this language created for those who are deaf and mute.

Sommerhaug said that five students have been taught the basics of ASL.

So far, club members have been taught how to sign the alphabet, the numbers up to 20 and some greetings, including how to say “My name is…” Furthermore, they have learned how to sign good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.

Besides this, they also know how to sign the names of family members (mom, dad, aunt), and foods, along with expressions such as sorry, please and thank you.

“The way (Valverde and sophomore Savannah Rosenzweig) teach is not (structured like a classroom curriculum),” Lee said. “They teach us what we want to learn.”

Keshav Anand
ASL Club president sophomore Alyssa Valverde signs the alphabet.

Other than Valverde, other ASL members find this club to be interesting.

“It is like learning another language without having to learn the grammar,” Lee said.

Wilson, who has relatives with hearing problems, said that learning ASL has helped her communicate with them.

Wilson and Sommerhaug agree that Valverde has the most exposure and is the most experienced in ASL.

“She (Valverde) is really fast when spelling words,” Wilson said.

Valverde, who has studied ASL for five months, is the main instructor.

Valverde said that she was inspired to learn sign language when she saw a video about teaching babies to sign and checked out a website on Baby Sign Language.

However, when she mentioned to her mother the idea of teaching her young cousins to sign, her mother cautioned Valverde that sometimes babies delay talking if they already know sign language.

Instead Valverde decided to learn ASL (which is more complicated than Baby Sign Language) and found a website called Lifeprint to help her learn.

Currently, she speaks and signs to people as she finds it as a good way to practice. At any time, if she were to forget a word, she would look it up on

“I’ve found this to be (the) most effective way of remembering most of the vocabulary,” Valverde said.

—By Keshav Anand

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