Parks and Rec expands offerings with sign language classes

The parks and recreation department will offer American Sign Language classes next month for youth and adults. “We want to expand” what the department offers the community, said Devyn Johnson.

“My goal is to offer something for everyone,” she said.

Eventually, Johnson hopes to expand the department’s programming to include music, art and more, not just exercise, swimming and pickleball.

The upcoming course will be the first time Parks and Recreation has ever offered sign language, she said. The five-session beginner class for people 14 and older will run Oct. 10 and 12-15, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., with the classes for youth scheduled for Oct. 23-27. The classes will be held at the community center multi-purpose room.

The two programs are limited to 15 students each. The fee is $25. To register, go online at Parks and Rec or call 907-874-2444 for more information.

Different Wrangell residents will teach the two classes.

Franki Gablehouse will teach the adults class. This year she is teaching American Sign Language online in a virtual class to Florida students, and before that she taught sign language for six years in a Florida classroom.

First, Gablehouse will teach her Wrangell students to make conversation and exchange greetings in sign, teaching the alphabet and expanding the instruction. “Most (hand) shapes stem from the alphabet,” she explained. American Sign Language is expressed by movements of the hands and face.

Suellen Bahleda will teach the youth class, Johnson said.

“We all know the fall and winter months can be tough,” with people stuck indoors and looking for activities, Johnson said. She hopes the sign language course pulls people out in the weather long enough to come into the community center.


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