School learns sign language to support first deaf kindergartener

An entire Maine elementary school learned sign language to support a deaf classmate, CBS News reported.

Morey Belanger, 6, was greeted by her classmates and friends last week in American Sign Language (ASL), after Dayton Consolidated School spent the academic year learning about 20 different things in the language. Morey’s kindergarten class can sign the entire alphabet, according to CBS News, and teachers hung posters in the school’s hallways to teach students different words and phrases.

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On May 29, the school posted a video to Facebook of “Cinderella” – played by an area high school sophomore – surprising the students with a song, during which she signed the lyrics in ASL. Morey got to join the princess in signing in front of her classmates. 

“Our community has embraced American Sign Language- many staff and students learning additional sign on their own,” the school said on Facebook. “As a thank you and as a way of reminding our students that ASL goes beyond our walls, Cinderella paid a visit and sang us a song while using ASL.” 

Morey originally came to the school in 2017 and became its first deaf student, CBS News reported. 

“From the get-go [Morey] was really well supported. It makes me happy to see her supported, loved and accepted,” Shannon Belanger, Morey’s mother, told People Magazine. “[Morey] is excited to go to school every day. She’s made really good friendships … She’s happy and I’m happy to see her happy.”

Morey was diagnosed at age 1 with a hearing disorder so rare that it is not named, People reported. She wears hearing aids and uses sign language.

The school’s teachers have also undergone training to incorporate sign language in their classrooms, Dayton Consolidated School Principal Kimberly Sampietro told People Magazine.

“So kids are seeing it embedded into things continually. Lots of people across the school, whether it’s the lunch lady or our music teacher, are learning even just basic signs to be a part of the communication,” Sampietro said.