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One very silent night

As any teacher will tell you, it can be difficult to get a high school student to be quiet.

But American Sign Language teacher Kristin Kohner tried to do just that with the second annual Silent Night Deaf Event on Nov. 19 at Woodbury High School.

"Some students spend thousands of dollars to immerse themselves in the culture of the languages they have learned, but for ASL students the culture is right here," Kohner said. "It's so important for students to immerse themselves in the culture and learn."

During the event roughly 100 students, from Woodbury High School, East Ridge High School and Park High School, and 25 deaf community members came out to socialize with each other in a completely silent environment.

Students were able to speak with each other by using American Sign Language and there were also deaf culture-related games and donated food.

"With ASL being at the heart of the deaf community it's important for students to foster their skills, but at the same time it's community building," Kohner said. "It's so important that they meet and converse with people in the deaf culture -- it's vital to have deaf role models."

Since students are required to not use their voice at all during the event, they must feel comfortable enough to communicate with American Sign Language, but there are white boards as a last resort, Kohner said.

Kohner said one of the biggest benefits of participating in a deaf event like this, particularly for the beginner students, is to better practice their language and apply it to reality.

"Since it's impolite for them to talk or whisper, it's amazing how much students are picking up by the end of the night," Kohner said.

During the event students had a little extra incentive to not speak because at the beginning of the night students received a name tag that would be entered into a drawing for prizes at the end of the night, but if anyone caught someone talking they took their name tag away.

Kohner said she intends to continue with this event because it is such a beneficial experience for students, as well as the deaf community.

"Everyone is learning from one another," she said. "The community members really enjoyed sitting down and talking with the students and were very impressed with how much the students were willing to put themselves out there and ask questions."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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