American Sign Language students like Zoe Minden (left) and Adoniah Simon (middle) learn the language by practicing in class. With a large deaf community in the Portland area, ASL is a compelling elective. The class may spark a student’s interest in translating, speech therapy, social work, or service careers which benefit the deaf community and are prevalent in Portland.
New classes like 2-Dimensional Animation, American Sign Language, and Music Appreciation are broadening students’ academic choices while dual-credit classes offer opportunity to earn college credit while students are completing high school requirements.
“We are constantly exploring ways to broaden and enrich our students’ academic experiences,” says PAA Principal Dan Nicola. “Our goal is to expose them to a broad realm of knowledge so that they can begin to formulate an idea of how their academic interests align with God’s plan for their lives.”
This year, the dual-credit course list was expanded to include Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Calculus, and Honors Anatomy & Physiology. Students in these classes are on track to develop better study and learning habits as well as completing future prerequisites earlier than their college peers.
In Music Appreciation students are connecting what they’re learning about the history of music to their modern world. “I was explaining to my students that Renaissance music was built on the old forms of Gregorian Chant,” says McCutchenne. “I told them that Renaissance musicians took one-line chants and built chords around them. One of my students said, ‘oh, it’s like a remix!’ While I had to laugh, he was exactly right.”
While most students take ASL because they think it will be fun, there is one student who has a young sibling who struggles with speech. This student is learning ASL to support the family as they make efforts to adapt to a new way of communicating.
In the new Music Appreciation class, teacher Emmett McCutchenne emphasizes the evolution of Western music over the centuries. “Students will come away from my class understanding how and why music developed over time and how it affects our music today,” he says. “For instance, during the Renaissance era, music was made and performed by the church only. But when Martin Luther challenged the idea that God is accessible to all people, music then became accessible as well.”
American Sign Language Teacher, Herbert Terreri says that many students take ASL because they think it will be fun and easy. “But they’re often surprised,” he says. “We build on the foundations of English so if a student struggles over the simple differences between ‘they’re’, ‘their’, and ‘there,’ it becomes a barrier to communication in ASL. It’s important that understanding and usage is already strong.” Other students expect to use ASL in daily life. One student has a young sibling who struggles with speech. This student is learning ASL to support the family as they make efforts to adapt to a new way of communicating.
In the 2-Dimensional Animation class, students like Brenton Rackley learn to master programs like Adobe Flash.
In PAA’s new 2-Dimensional Animation class, teacher Frank Jin teaches students to master programs like Adobe Flash which gives them the fundamental skills in technical creativity, a useful skill if students pursue careers in web-development, advertisement, film, animation, or even teaching.
“Students draw their characters, borrow clip art, add photos, videos, sound effects, and text, move them around on the screen,” says Jin. “Then they can morph one figure into another, from one background to another, and end up telling a story in a creative and entertaining way.”
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