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Kevin Taylor, who was born deaf, leads Mason’s American Sign Language Program. He’ll work to create an ASL minor and increase the number and level of ASL classes.

‘Native Speaker’ Leads Sign Language Program

Kevin Taylor’s role as program coordinator of George Mason University’s American Sign Language Program is a milestone of sorts.

Previously, the program ran primarily with adjunct professors, says Pam Baker, director of the Division of Special Education and disAbility Research in the College of Education and Human Development.

“Now we will have someone in-house who is a native speaker of sign language and will be teaching in the program and supporting its expansion,” says Baker.

Taylor, who was born deaf and said he has been using ASL since he was 2½ years old, has a substantial educational background. He taught honors chemistry and physics at Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University for four years, and ASL and interpreting courses at Northern Virginia Community College for six years. He has a master’s degree in ASL and deaf studies from Gallaudet.

At Mason, he will teach in and help expand the university’s ASL program into a minor, adding ASL IV and a deaf culture course for the 2018-19 academic year, as well as lab components for all individual courses. The program already offers ASL I, II, and III, which can be used to fulfill the foreign language requirement.

“I’m excited about adding these additional courses, as the classes have been very popular and in high demand at Mason,” Taylor says. “The program will give students the ability to work with deaf people in their future careers. The program will also help spread awareness about the deaf community, their culture and language.”

“[Washington] D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have some of the largest populations of deaf people. So the more we teach students ASL, the better they will be able to communicate directly with their colleagues at future jobs in various fields.”

—Kevin Taylor

Professor Aja Puopolo, coordinator of Mason’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, who was involved in Taylor’s hiring, said he brings a welcoming and friendly energy many students need.

“A lot of students feel intimidated when they come to ASL classes, but when you meet Kevin, you want him around,” Puopolo says. “Apart from being very qualified for the job, he makes you feel very comfortable, just from his facial expressions, which are very important for deaf people.”

Taylor’s heavy involvement in the local deaf community is also a plus, and he plans to co-host ASL dinners with a former Mason student.

“These will be great events for students to attend to meet other deaf people and practice their signing skills,” Taylor says. “I am looking forward to working with the students and seeing them learn the language. I am also excited to teach and share about deaf culture.”

This story was written by communications intern Noor Khan. Read more Mason News.