A Teacher Noticed Students Struggling To Communicate With Deaf Lunch Worker, So She Taught Them Sign Language

She hopes that every school will now teach ASL and create a more inclusive environment for those hard of hearing.

teacher, lunch worker, ASL, students Facebook / Juan Ci / Shutterstock 

After a school cafeteria employee was having trouble communicating with and understanding students, a teacher took it upon herself to teach them the employee’s language. The heartwarming results were posted by the school in a Facebook video that is inspiring more people to learn American Sign Language. 

The teacher taught her students American Sign Language after noticing them struggling to communicate with a deaf lunch worker. 

Across the U.S. and Canada, 250,000 to 500,000 people use American Sign Language (ASL) as their native language. It is how those who are Deaf and hard of hearing communicate with others. One of those individuals who primarily use ASL is Leisa Duckwall, who works as a nutrition service worker at Nansemond Parkway Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia.


Duckwall is Deaf. During her time at the school during the first four years, students were only able to communicate with her by pointing to what food items they wanted in the cafeteria, which she would confirm with a nod or shake of their heads. 

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Students were never able to offer Duckwall a “hello,” “good morning” or “thank you,” per the Virginian-Pilot. One fourth-grade teacher, Kari Maskelony, who had been working at the school for two decades, noticed the students and Duckwall struggling to communicate and understand one another. 


“I noticed that all the kids realized that Ms. Duckwall couldn’t hear them. But they were all pointing to what they wanted, and then, she would have to point and have them say yes or no,” she told Bored Panda. 

Maskelony was brought up in a home where many of her family members and friends were hard of hearing, and ASL was primarily used as their way of communicating. The teacher was quite familiar with the language. 

One day, she approached Duckwall in the cafeteria and the two struck up a conversation in ASL. The cafeteria fell silent as the students watched them communicate in awe. That’s when Maskelony formulated the terrific idea that would allow the students to have a similar interaction that she was having with Duckwall. 

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The next day, she asked her students if they wanted to learn how to sign to Duckwall to tell her what they wanted for lunch instead of pointing, which they all eagerly agreed to. 

Maskelony began by teaching the fourth-grade students the basics of ASL, including the letters for the food items that were served in the cafeteria, such as chicken and fish, along with the side dishes, which often consisted of carrots and rice. 

A Facebook video posted by the school depicted students signing letters to Duckwall to let her know what they wanted on their food trays. 

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What began in Maskelony’s fourth-grade classroom quickly became a “school goal” for every student to become more familiar with ASL. 

“We now have the entire school learning one sign a week,” Maskelony shared. “We teach the morning announcement news crew a new sign every Monday and they practice it every day.” Some students have even revealed that they are committing to learning ASL fully outside of school hours. 

Maskelony hopes that other educators will learn from her ASL lessons and incorporate them into their own classrooms to hopefully increase the popularity of the communication method. 

“I am not sure why teaching sign language is not the norm. Some teachers use signals for things and just do not know the real signs for it,” she says. “It is not hard to learn to sign and I think it should be accessible for everyone to learn. I also think there should be initiatives to teach signs for those workplaces that have hard-of-hearing employees.” 

Duckwall clearly appreciated Maskelony’s efforts as now it will be easier to communicate with the students. “When they walked in and started signing they were so confident and proud and most noticed how happy [Duckwall] was that they were talking in her language!” she adds. 


“I am so proud of my students. It has really helped with our classroom community!” 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.