ASL students host deaf storyteller Peter Cook

Katherine Schurer, staff reporter

South ASL students hosted Peter Cook, world-renowned deaf storyteller, on Nov. 17 and Dec. 1 in the SAC for the third time in the last 5 years. They have been actively fundraising for this event since last year, according to ASL Teacher Julie Santoro.

“Our students fundraised last school year and the beginning of this school year to have this workshop take place,” Santoro said. “We had a few bake sales, worked the concession stands and sold ASL I Love You lollipops.”

Santoro explained that Cook proved his status as an internationally renowned deaf performing artist during the event through how he got each student involved and excited about the workshop.

“He incorporates American Sign Language, storytelling, acting, and movement,” Santoro said. “[Our students] were very involved and put their all into each activity. They were surprised with how much energy he brought to learning.”

According to Jordan Dahiya, a sophomore ASL student, all students were required to attend the 90 minute workshop as it replaced their class for that day. During the sessions, Cook went through the main elements of being a signer.

“He went through the different parameters of sign language, facial expression, body language,” Dahiya said. “All the different things that make sign language interesting.”

Dahiya stressed how the professionality of Cook helped emphasize certain parts of ASL the students may not have seen without this opportunity.

“It showed a whole new side of sign language because it really helped explained how gesturing is important in sign language,” Dahiya said. “All these different things you wouldn’t have thought of unless you’re seeing it done by someone who is very professional and understands what it’s like to use sign language from day to day.”

Dayton Whitman, a sophomore ASL student, noted Cook’s unwavering passion for teaching students all about sign language and making sure they feel compelled to pursue it.

“Peter Cook is passionate about teaching young people to sign,” Whitman said. “He would love to see other students making an effort to learn more about sign language.”

According to Justin Manalang, freshman ASL student, this workshop was a chance to use sign in a more authentic environment that may not have been available to students otherwise.

“It taught us to become better signers, [especially] to those of us who haven’t used sign in a real life setting,” Manalang said.

Santoro says the workshop was an opportunity for students to learn from a well-known storyteller and use the information gained as they continue their ASL careers throughout high school and beyond.

“[Students] will take the information that they learned with them as they continue learning ASL here at GBS,” Santoro said.

*Ashton Tener contributed to this report