When I joined the Signing Time Academy back in March 2012, I had no idea what our community would look like two years later. Twenty awesome families from San Antonio have graduated from our Play & Sign classes--I am truly honored to have a role in their child's early education!
Many families write to me each week asking for more information about our baby sign language classes, so here is what I typically share:
* My name is Melissa Droegemueller and I am a Baby Signing Time Instructor with the Signing Time Academy. Before becoming a mother, I was a classroom teacher in both the public school system (Northside ISD in San Antonio, TX) and private parochial setting (Kansas City, MO). I graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2001 with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education (specialization: Reading). My years in the classroom were magical, and my passion for teaching has only increased in the past 12 years.
* I am married to an amazing man, and we have two beautiful daughters (ages 5 and 2). Our older daughter is being homeschooled for Kindergarten, and her little sister is learning right along with her!
* I teach three sign language classes weekly, with the possibility of a fourth (preschool-level) class starting next month. Classes are offered on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings.
* I am certified as a Baby Signing Time Instructor (ages birth-5 years) with the Signing Time Academy, the educational division of Two Little Hands Productions (creators of the award-winning programs Signing Time, Baby Signing Time, Potty Time, and Rachel and the Treeschoolers).
* Our older daughter was born extremely prematurely (26 weeks) in 2008. We spent the first 135 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the next three years in doctors' offices and various therapies. Addie began speech therapy when she was 18 months old (15 months adjusted)--it was our Speech and Language Pathologist that recommended we use American Sign Language (and Signing Time DVDs, specifically) with her as a bridge to verbal communication. By the time Addie turned 3.5, she was recognizing over 50 words that she could sign, and she has been actively reading books since shortly after her fourth birthday. With my educational background, I have no qualms giving the credit for her early reading to sign language!
* Our signing classes are for ALL children, whether they are hearing or deaf, exhibiting signs of speech delay or apraxia or early talkers! I have been down the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) route, and I firmly believe that using ASL with your child works beautifully in conjunction with speech therapy. Many families come to us simply looking for a fun, interactive, educational experience for the whole family, while others may have deeper concerns.
* Classes are casual and family-centered! Parents are encouraged to sit down on the floor with their children and model the signs as they are being taught. My children are in attendance, and my husband is typically here for the evening class. We love it when both parents are able to come--and if Grandma is visiting, bring her along, too! Our space is not huge, so we often limit class size for comfort.
* We encourage families to build relationships with each other, both in class and in "real life." There is a warm family environment in all classes; it's not unusual to see a child sitting in another parent's lap! Many of our families continue to attend class even after graduation, so the community that is being built here is really genuine.
* As I mentioned earlier, I am a passionate teacher with detailed lesson plans. However, students are young, ranging from young toddlers to older preschoolers--and each class looks a little bit different depending on the group of children, their moods, their nap schedule, and even the weather outside. :) Flexibility is key--active learning is the goal!
* Routine is important for young children, so our class does have a typical schedule that ebbs and flows each week. We open and close each class with the same songs. New signs are introduced at the beginning of class, and we practice our signs with stories and songs. We take frequent movement breaks--dancing, whole-class games, and more. Usually, we move from instruction-time to the family craft and learning centers. Each class features 5-6 educational activities for families to practice new signs and work on important literacy, math, and fine-motor skills. The last 10-15 minutes of class include bubbles, parachute play, ABC and color songs, and a brief review. Families are welcome to stay and participate in free play after our closing song.
* This time in our life is a joyous one. We treasure the relationships that are being built through signing classes! My goal is to help your family with your child's early education--don't hesitate to contact me with specific questions.