Meet Tiffany Moore
The brightly colored and futuristic design of the Node desks in Tiffany Moore’s classroom at Mahtomedi High School look as if they were created by the same imaginative minds as the aging cartoon The Jetson’s. Even though we don’t yet have flying transportation, the mobility and flexibility of these space-age desks create interactive and engaging learning environments, which is the future of education.
Last year was the first for the high school’s American Sign Language (ASL) program. Starting with only three classes, within one year the popularity and success of the program has ballooned to five sections. Next year Moore is hoping for even more classes. “We could have had six [this year] but I don’t have enough time in my day” she says with an expressive energy.
ASL classes fulfill Mahtomedi’s World Language credit requirements and Moore has already had two graduating seniors choose colleges – specifically - for their ASL programs. To boot, both students tested out of introductory classes because of their Mahtomedi education.
Moore beams with pride when she recounts students’ stories of using sign language outside of class. “Since we live in a metropolitan area, many of my students are able to use what they learn …I tell them that the goal isn’t to become interpreters, but that you are comfortable so, someday, if you are a doctor and you have a deaf patient you can interact with them.” Knowing a little sign language, she adds, can go a long way in breaking down barriers.
Given all its success, Moore confessed that her first year was logistically very challenging. “Most ASL classrooms have special features that cultivate learning environments with clear sight lines and physical spaces that do not restrict signing. The ideal classroom is usually set up in a circle or a horseshoe, but I don’t have that capability.” In response to the growth and needs of the program, Moore applied for a MAEF teacher grant. Pivoting in one of the 15 Node desks MAEF funding provided, Moore grins, “[the desks] have made all the difference. Students can turn to look at each other and with the swiveling desktop they can comfortably practice and use signs. The desks have given me the freedom to teach ASL in the most natural way possible.” Emphatic, she repeated, “they have made all the difference.”
By Alicia Gatto Petersen