Springfield teacher Arlon Nash teaches American Sign Language to students at Springfield High School. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Excellence in Teaching: Springfield teacher uses sign language to bridge communities

Arlon Nash’s American Sign Language classroom is completely silent; the only noises that can be heard are faint footsteps that echo from the hallway.

Nash has a master’s degree in Deaf Education and is in his 17th year of teaching American Sign Language at Springfield High School, a program he started and developed himself.

“Seeing students develop and grow within this language, that’s the biggest part of this program,” Nash said. “It’s all about how they take it out of the classroom and apply it.”

When Nash started his American Sign Language program, the class had around 88 students. Now, the program has 155 enrolled, with more hoping to join.

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Nash and three other teachers will be receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award on March 18. The awards program is sponsored by the Springfield Rotary Club, Ohio Edison, The Springfield Foundation and The Chamber of Greater Springfield.

Each recipient will be introduced and will give a presentation on what teaching has meant to them and the importance of being a teacher. Recipients also receive a $1,000 check, a glass apple and proclamations from the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

As a member of the deaf community, Nash hopes his course teaches students how ASL can benefit both deaf and hearing members of the community.

“Just to be able to be apart of helping people understand the culture and teaching mutual respect of the culture means a lot,” Nash said.

Growing up, Nash was inspired by the educators in his life. Two women, who were both teachers, specially stick out as his driving force for wanting to become a teacher.

“Her name was Jean Hrinko,” Nash said. Hrinko was one of Nash’s elementary school teachers.

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“I think without her, I would have struggled a lot. She really helped me see that I can do the same things as anyone else,” Nash said.

The other woman was his mother.

“My mom was an educator,” Nash said. “I saw her in the classroom, I saw how she brought her work home with her. I saw what she was able to accomplish with her students.”

That’s who Nash said his award is dedicated too- students who he himself has watched grow.

“This award means so many things to me, to me it really means how I have had the chance to impact my students,” Nash said. “To watch them have so much success over the years, they have really had quite the impact on me.”

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