Signs of Success

Deonna Tate, Journalist

The prospect of adding American Sign Language to the Prior Lake High School language department sparked interest and excitement among the students enrolling in classes last spring. Students that reached the limits of the High School’s program in their respective languages were particularly excited about this new addition.

For a number of years, the Prior Lake High School World Language department has consisted of Spanish, German, and French courses. Spanish remains the school’s most advanced language course, extending as far as Spanish five along with Medical Spanish and an AP course offered to students. German extends to level four S2S while, just last year, the High School began offering CIS French four.

Brent Rekstad, Prior Lake High School’s new ASL teacher, explained that one of the interpreters at PLHS suggested offering the course this school year. 

Mr. Rekstad’s interest in the language began the summer after his senior year of high school, where he worked at a camp for deaf/hard of hearing children ages 6-16. Mr. Rekstad, who’s been teaching ASL since 2002, shared that he likes the excitement students bring to learning. Although new to the area, Mr. Rekstad explained that he’s enjoying teaching at PLHS thus far because “students are excited to learn and they’re very respectful in class.”

Senior Jacqueline Resh completed Spanish five her junior year and decided to take advantage of the highly anticipated ASL class. Though currently undecided on a college major, Resh had been looking into Speech Pathology and believed ASL would be a useful skill if she decided to pursue the area of study.

Jacqueline revealed that excluding the obvious lack of verbal communication, the ASL class greatly differs from other language courses. Mr. Rekstad arranges desks in a circle with everyone facing the center. “It’s nice because we can see everyone, which is important when we’re signing,” commented Resh.

Resh also explained that Mr. Rekstad sometimes takes their “mouth keys.” “We’re essentially silent the whole hour and he teaches at the front of the room, using signs we’ve already learned, props, and drawings.” Resh expressed appreciation for Mr. Rekstad’s teaching methods, saying that the activity keeps them engaged and it feels more authentic.

After completing their first year of ASL, students will be able to introduce themselves and others as well as sign basics, including countries, families, and favorites. With class sizes of over 30 students, the course promises growth in the future. Jacqueline’s only complaint about the course was that it wasn’t offered at PLHS earlier than her senior year.