Cool Courses: ASL Instructor Incorporates Advocacy into her Dream Course 

Posted May 30, 2023

In fall semester 2022, Victoria Frisch received the Teaching in Excellence Part-Time Faculty Teaching Award. She teaches American Sign Language, Integrative Studies (INST), and Senior Year Experience (SYE) classes, and serves as the advisor of the Otterbein Deaf Culture Club. 

She considers advocacy to be one of the most important aspects of ASL. To bring that to life, she teaches a unique Senior Year Experience Course.  

Name of course: SYE 4407: Silence and the Golden Years, Engaging the Language and Culture of the Senior Deaf Community 

Course description: Deaf does not mean different. This SYE will expose you to Deaf culture, some ASL (American Sign Language), and offer you the opportunity to engage with elderly citizens within the Deaf Community by completing a client-oriented project. 

What inspired you to develop this course?  

Not what, but who! Rob Braun suggested I teach an SYE and within minutes, I knew where I would take my students. 

Why do you love teaching this course?   

So many reasons! Otterbein seniors, Deaf senior citizens to name the top two reasons. My students arrive with a variety of majors and minors which, in turn, generate a creative range of projects and activities they bring to Columbus Colony Housing (CCH) every Monday and Wednesday afternoon for about 10 weeks. This SYE provides a valuable community service to a unique (and under-served) population right here in Westerville. 

What is the most unexpected thing students learn in this course?  

Two come to mind: being able to step outside your comfort zone and not to judge a book by its cover. 

How do the themes in your course prepare students to think critically? 

The SYE mission statement, “The Otterbein Senior Year Experience provides graduating students with opportunities to articulate and practice their roles and responsibilities as citizens in interdisciplinary settings, reflect on their education as a whole, and prepare for their transition to life beyond college” really outlines the students’ objectives.  

I also focus on the three SYE goals of Act, Reflect, and Transition. While at CCH, the students may sometimes need to think on their feet or make a quick change to their project in the moment. I require my SYE students to journal weekly about their experiences/projects at CCH so they are constantly reflecting on what went well, areas for improvement, changes they have made or would like to make to their project or activity. Over the entire semester, I remind the students in various ways (with guest speakers; setting and meeting deadlines; working in groups; organizing supply lists; activities; events and their final PowerPoint presentations) of their goal to transition from a student to a professional. Their final reflection has them tying together their major course knowledge to their general education courses and their experiences at CCH to develop an idea of the kind of professional, citizen, leader and community member they want to be. 

What is some of your favorite student feedback you have received about this course?  

  • “I used to hate Mondays, but thanks to my time at CCH, I look forward to Mondays now!” 
  • My time at CCH was a great experience and I feel this has been a great fulfillment of my senior year experience and I am glad I took this course! 
  • I feel I have grown so much more in my ASL, and I will always be grateful for this experience!! Leaving on the last day after saying goodbye to the residents was a little hard but I know that my time there was only a small part of my future of being involved in the Deaf community! 
  • I have been challenged to implement creativity and ingenuity while using the skills acquired in my classes to produce unique solutions to unique problems. The ability to tailor my skills to unique challenges will transfer well to my job. Now that I have been encouraged to consider the different abilities and circumstances of others in the many facets of creating useful material, I am now better prepared to make user-friendly visualizations and inclusive solutions to work challenges. 
  • This class will aid me in transitioning from college to the working world because working with the residents required students to act on their feet and cope with situations that they may not have been comfortable with. These are important skills to have in a career and working with the residents allowed students to practice these skills. 
  • I felt happy and proud to have stuck it out through the semester, mostly due to the progress I saw within myself as a person, but also as a psychology major. The experiences I had at CCH are ones I will remember forever. 

What are some interesting projects or activities you do to engage your students in your course?  

I allow my students to develop their own project or series of activities to bring to Columbus Colony Housing (CCH) over the 10-week time we’re off-campus. Those projects might connect to a major, minor, sport they play or even a hobby. I am happy to suggest a few popular activities if a student or group wants an idea. Some examples are: blood pressure clinic, chair exercise, Otterbein Women’s Thrift Store pop-ups, visits by therapy animals (dogs and a pony!), Ohio Wildlife Center presentation, crafts of all sorts, tech help, nutrition, finance, and stress reduction classes, and cornhole! 

What is a dream course you would like to develop or teach?  

I am already teaching them — SYE 4407: Silence and the Golden Years, and INST 2807: Deaf Culture.