Deaf professor teaches ASL at Pierce

The room was silent.

Standing in front of a classroom illuminated by an overhead projector, she was in the spotlight. The room soon filled with a soft laughter as Kristine Hall began posing like a model while students got ready to record her for an upcoming project with their cell phones.

Kristine Hall is a full-time American Sign Language (ASL) professor in her fourth year at Pierce College. She was born in Georgia to two deaf parents and is one of four deaf children. Growing up in an all-deaf family gave her confidence and a very high level of self-esteem with being deaf.

“I felt so lucky, my parents were deaf and could understand,” Hall signed.

Hall’s family moved from Georgia to California when she was just five years old. Hall and her siblings attended school at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (now relocated to Fremont), where she considered herself “very lucky.”

“Everyone was deaf and I could communicate freely with teachers,” Hall signed. “Not through an interpreter.”

She then attended college in Washington D.C. at Gallaudet University, where she majored in Communication Arts. The college is mainly for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also admits a small number of hearing students.

After college, Hall decided to move back to California where she became a teacher’s aid at Marlton School, a K-12 public school for children who are deaf. While teaching at Marlton, the principal suggested to Hall that she should get a degree in teaching and become a full time teacher.

“Teaching ASL is fun. It’s a hands on activity class,” Hall signed.

That’s when she began working at North Valley Occupational Center teaching Language Development to deaf adults, some of which had never learned sign language before. After 10 years at North Valley, as well as being a part-time professor at CSUN, she began teaching full-time at Pierce College.

“I love it here,” she signed. “I love watching my students grow and improve.”

Lindsey Morrison, an ASL 2 student and deaf studies major, wants to work with deaf children. Morrison had never taken sign language from a deaf teacher before and wishes she would have taken Hall’s ASL 1 class. After enrolling in ASL 2 with Hall, she feels like she really got “the whole package.”

“Kristine is patient with students, she makes you feel so comfortable,” Morrison said.

Hall has students who are both deaf and hearing. She loves having her deaf students share their life experiences with her other students. Hall says she values her students’ perspectives and encourages students, both deaf and hearing, to broaden their horizons.

“I want to help people understand there is a deaf community and that it is rich, so rich,” Hall signed.

Alongside Hall since the start of her time at Pierce is sign language interpreter Ellin Sherman.

Both agree they are lucky to have each other. Hall joked that not many interpreters can keep up with her because she signs so fast.

“We have a certain synergy,” Sherman said.

“We’re a team,” Hall added.

But a sign language interpreter isn’t supposed to be viewed as a “helper.”

“We are equal,” Hall signed. “Ellin and I work with the students on an equal level.”

Hall hadn’t experienced many frustrations or difficulties with being deaf until she began working on a hearing campus and had two hearing children. But she is thankful to Pierce College and sees the Pierce community as a family.

Hall has been happily married for almost 14 years to her husband Richard, who is also deaf. They have two children together, Kalissa, 10, and Maxella, 6, both are hearing.

Hall was also the first-ever deaf contestant on the game show “The Price is Right.” Her episode is available for viewing on YouTube.

This summer, Hall will begin her Sign Language teaching masters program back east at Gallaudet University and will graduate next year. She will continue teaching at Pierce College this fall and welcomes all students to enroll in her ASL or Deaf Culture classes.

“I have a passion to teach people who are motivated to learn,” Hall signed. “This is my passion, it’s not a secret.”