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Loudenback: a Wildcat gem

Rowena Ranan , Staff Reporter - February 6, 2013

When Jer Loudenback walks into his classrooms, he establishes a “no-voice zone.”

“So you walk in, and every student that comes in, you don’t hear a single word in his class from the beginning to the end- not one,” said Rodney Bransdorfer, chair of the world languages department. “It’s part of showing respect for him as a deaf person that it’s not polite to voice in the presence of deaf people. So he teaches them that right away, that it’s all part of the deaf culture.”

Loudenback, a deaf American Sign Language teacher, has his own unique story to share. Loudenback graduated from college with a degree in theater and he taught acting classes to sign language interpreters.

After that he became an American Sign Language professor and has been teaching ASL for 30 years.

Loudenback came to Central Washington University from the University of Northern Florida. His goal is to make sure students understand the concepts of the language without having to use their voices. He tries to help his students avoid thinking in English when they use or see signs.

Loudenback said Central students are enthusiastic and motivated to learn. One of the difficulties he experienced, however, was the number of students in his ASL class.

“Ideally it should be around 15 [students] but I’ve had 32 in a class last quarter, and that was double what it should be,” Loudenback said through an interpreter. “So that was very challenging to give individual attention to each student.”

Loudenback said ASL can be difficult to learn.

“It’s a very different and unique language, unlike other foreign languages that require auditory skills to learn it,” Loudenback said. “This is a visual language, so you can’t depend on your ears. You have to take it in through your eyes, and if you are a visual learner, you’re going to pick it up more quickly compared to others.”

Loudenback added that art majors and artistic people tend to pick up ASL more quickly. People who are auditory learners tend to have a bigger challenge, he said, and some really struggle.

Rachel Wear, one of Loudenback’s students, likes how Loudenback takes the time to explain the signs and makes sure people understand what he’s assigned.

“He’s just really good at making sure people are understanding and he’s willing to talk outside of class to make sure that people understand,” Wear said.

Bransdorfer has known Loudenback since September. He explained how he knows that Loudenback has extensive background in deaf performance and how Loudenback is very dedicated and interested in teaching about the deaf community.

Bransdorfer described Loudenback as having a great sense of humor and being an extremely hard worker.

“He’s the one who’s here in the office first every morning, and generally the one to leave last,” Bransdorfer said.

Bransdorfer said Loudenback is famous in the deaf community for performance. He described Loudenback as extremely well-known in the deaf community -- even a celebrity -- which many people don’t know.

“That’s kind of what sets him apart as an instructor as well. He uses that background in theatre when he’s teaching,” Bransdorfer said. “When you’re speaking sign language, it’s very expressive. But he is even more so because of the theatre background, so he’s very theatrical. It’s really a huge benefit, I think, in terms of his effectiveness as a teacher.”

Bransdorfer explained that one of the first things Loudenback does in his classes is give students information sheets to help them communicate with him, and gives them information about appropriate behavior around deaf people so they know the rules of the class.

“The best thing about CWU is basically everything,” Loudenback said.

“The office, my boss, my students’ motivation- this is the best working place I’ve ever been in a long time.”

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