Q&A: With variety of experiences, Payne brings fresh take to language


Laura Amador-Toro

Delosha Payne is the new American Sign Language teacher at Coppell High School. Joining the district has been an exciting experience for her, as she teaches the language she loves and sees students grow in skill in ASL.

Claire Clements, Editorial Page Editor

Students greet new American Sign Language (ASL) teacher Delosha Payne with a few signs as she welcomes them into her class. After teaching for six years, Payne joined Coppell High School this year and introduced not only a new style of teaching, as she is the first Hearing ASL teacher in four years, but also introduced the first ASL IV classes in CHS.


How did you learn ASL?


I have a Deaf parent, and so like most people grow up learning English, I grew up learning sign language and English.


What have you done outside of teaching?


I have been a bill collector, and mainly I was a sign language interpreter. I interpreted inside schools and then when I went back to school [for more instruction], I interpreted in the community, so I did different kinds of interpreting assignments.


How long have you been teaching and why did you start?


I’ve been teaching for six years and I started teaching because I was [interpreting] with a teacher of the Deaf, she was teaching Deaf kids, and I thought, “That’s something I can do, and I’d really do well at it,” but then I decided not to teach Deaf kids and teach ASL.


What is your favorite part of your job?


I like working with teenagers, [they] are the future of this world, and so I feel like if I can inspire one or two, make an impact on [them], hopefully [they will] go out into the world and make positive impacts on other people.


What do you like so far about CHS?


I like the wide range of diversity here, that is my favorite thing. I love learning about people and their different cultures, and so with [CHS] having such a diverse population, I’m able to learn different things about different people and different cultures.


What has been your most interesting experience with ASL?


When I was about 23, I had gone to [South] Korea for six months, and I had seen these ladies over there signing to each other but they were using Korean Sign Language, and they saw me watching them and my first instinct was to try to sign with them, but I did not know their sign language. The only thing they could understand was that my mom was Deaf, because the sign for mom was kind of the same, and the sign for Deaf was kind of the same, and I tried to draw Texas, to tell them where I was from, but my drawing skills were terrible so I couldn’t.


What is your favorite part of ASL?


For me personally, I like that sometimes I can hear things in English and not understand the word [because of pronunciation] but then if I see it in ASL, I’m like “Oh, that’s what that means” so sometimes I need ASL to translate the English when the English is too weird.


What is your favorite level of ASL?


Level one is my favorite, because you get to see what you put into kids, and then level four would equally be my favorite because you can’t go further than four in high school. To see [students in ASL l]  at the end of the year and how much they’ve flourished and to also see [students in ASL IV] and how much they’ve learned in the four years, those are probably the most rewarding levels, just to see how kids progress.