BAY MINETTE, Alabama – Bay Minette Elementary School teacher D’natia Kennedy found a productive way to keep busy during a recent battle with Covid. Determined to not waste away the time, she instead designed and published her own book – a traceable alphabet workbook. The ‘I Can Trace! The Alphabet’ workbook pulls double duty in that it also introduces young children to the American Sign Language alphabet.
“I believe the earlier students begin learning ASL, the better it will stick. That is where my book comes into play,” she said. “The book is targeted at pre-school and kindergarten-aged students. As they learn the alphabet and letter formation, they can also begin learning American Sign Language as well.”
The elementary teacher said she plans to create a series of workbooks to expand the lessons to other topics including colors and shapes, among others.
Kennedy said she has been interested in ASL since she was eight years old. “My motivation was that my family was having a reunion and my cousin, who is deaf, was flying into town. I so desperately wanted to communicate with him.”
That curiosity continued to grow and found its way into her classroom. “Fast forward to my first teaching job, I began incorporating ASL into my phonics and spelling lessons. Before long, my students wanted to learn more and began communicating with each other through ASL,” she said. “Through learning ASL, my students developed a strong appreciation for deaf culture, and it promoted understanding and acceptance of the language among others.”
Kennedy began learning sign language while she was a fourth grader but said her students were not the only ones who benefitted from the lessons. “It’s a good skill to keep in your pocket,” she said. “Last year, I was relearning right along with my kids. There were very excited to communicate to each other without talking.”
Kennedy is a 2020 graduate of the University of Mobile where she majored in elementary and early childhood education. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Elementary Education there. As part of her college courses, she worked as a student-teacher at Pine Grove Elementary. Following graduation, she accepted a position as a second-grade teacher at Bay Minette Elementary School.
This year, Kennedy will serve as a kindergarten teacher and plans to again incorporate sign language into her lesson plans. She hopes that it will have a life-long impact on her students.
“My goal is to help bridge the gap in communicating between the hearing, the non-hearing, and the hard of hearing with this next generation,” Kennedy said.
Copies of the book “I Can Trace!” can be purchased on Amazon.