Amy T. Andersen, an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher at Ocean City High School, has received a prestigious certification that only 41 other teachers in the entire country have also earned. Andersen recently completed the nearly year-long process for Master Level certification by the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA).
Of the nearly 650 teachers who are ASLTA members, only 89 have become certified by the association to teach ASL, with 41 of them completing the more rigorous requirements for Master Level certification. Andersen compiled a portfolio of video submissions, which included a lesson analysis, assessment discussions and a response to an advocacy scenario – all communicated via American Sign Language. She also completed a 30-minute ASL test and participated in a live interview using only ASL with Dr. Keith Cagle, former president of ASLTA and current Evaluation and Certification chair. Other requirements for certification included graduate-level coursework, which Andersen had previously completed when she earned her master’s in Deaf Education from McDaniel College.
“This was a rigorous and intense process, but I think every ASL teacher can benefit from the experience; it forced me to think about my teaching philosophy, my delivery, my assessments and so much more,” she said. “I also made it a priority, because ASL is not my native language as a teacher who is hearing. Therefore, I set a high standard for myself to further understand deaf culture and to learn the nuances of the language. By doing so, I believe that I helped to validate ASL as a language. I shared the certification process with my students at Ocean City High School, and I regularly convey the respect that I have for this language with them.”
Andersen’s commitment to her students and her teaching was recognized through her selection as the 2017-18 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year and as one of four finalists for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year. These recognitions helped her make new connections throughout the ASL teaching community and broaden the impact of her work. She consulted with other deaf and hearing professionals at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to start the process of developing a Praxis exam to administer to new teachers of ASL. She also advocated on behalf of Deaf babies and their families and deaf students throughout New Jersey for new legislation, passed in August 2019, that helps promote early language acquisition and equity for deaf and hard of hearing students throughout their educational journeys.
Andersen has had ongoing support from Ocean City School District Superintendent Kathleen Taylor, Ed.D., and the Board of Education to deepen her commitment to ASL teaching and learning. In addition to seeking Master Level certification, she also attended the ASLTA’s biannual national conference last July. Here, she received one of 10 awards given out every two years by the association. She accepted the Isabelle Calvacca Award, presented to an individual who has been most helpful to the ASLTA president to accomplish the mission and goals of the association.
“Amy Andersen has grown the American Sign Language program at Ocean City High School into one of the most popular academic programs, and that is largely because our students recognize her passion for the language; they are drawn to her energy and enthusiasm," said Taylor. "She has created an exemplary world language program, recognized nationally for its excellence. Her increased involvement with ASLTA, including her most recent efforts to earn Master Level certification, as well as her Teacher of the Year recognitions, have helped pave the way for her to make a difference on a larger scale. She never stops working on behalf of ASL educators and students, and she never stops working on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing community."