Silence is the sound of learning for City College professor

By Tasha Ball

Simone Laubenthal’s students don’t listen to a word she says, and that’s exactly how she likes it.

Laubenthal, 37, teaches American Sign Language classes at San Diego City College, and has been involved in the deaf community since the age of 8.

As a child, Laubenthal and her sister used ASL as their secret language. At age 13, her interest in the language was heightened when she worked with children with disabilities, who often used ASL to communicate.

This semester, Laubenthal makes daily trips to multiple colleges in San Diego. She teaches two ASL 115 classes at City, the same class at Grossmont College, and works as an interpreter for deaf students at San Diego State University.

ASL 115, a course designed for students with no prior knowledge of the language, is a class that Laubenthal has been teaching for 10 years. She said that student interaction is not only her favorite, but also the most challenging part of teaching the class.

After teaching the course for 10 years, she has discovered many techniques to teach her ASL 115 students. These include starting with the basics, using pictures, drawing, acting out, and most importantly, no use of the English language.

“Keeping a quiet classroom and focusing on the second language can be challenging when it comes to teaching this class,” Laubenthal said.

On top of her duties at these colleges, Laubenthal stays involved in the deaf community by attending deaf events, teaching ASL-related workshops, and interpreting for and interacting with deaf people. She has also run a camp for disabled children called Camp Able for 19 years.

“The biggest benefit to knowing ASL is being able to communicate with the deaf population,” Laubenthal said.

This is only one of the reasons why she is teaching her 2-year-old son the language.

“It is important for my children to know ASL for language development. I want them to be bilingual, and to be able to communicate at 5 months old, instead of 16,” Laubenthal said.

In fact, in order to further her involvement in the deaf community, she plans to focus her energy on “the kid’s side of things,” she said. Laubenthal explained that she is interested in possibly teaching an ASL class for babies.

“Knowing ASL has enriched my life. It is always a challenge, and it puts me in interesting situations,” Laubenthal said.

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Silence is the sound of learning for City College professor