Meet Valerie Sharer Rodriguez
Valerie Sharer Rodriguez joined Tidewater Community College in January 2018 as the program head for American Sign Language (ASL) and the college’s Interpreter Training program.
Sharer Rodriguez is a third generation Deaf in her family to include both parents and siblings. ASL has been her first and primary language since birth. Through academia, she learned to read and write English as a second language and non-verbal deaf individual.
Immersed in the Deaf culture and the community, Sharer Rodriguez is passionate about sharing the language she loves with her students.
In her own words
What makes you an effective teacher?
“Teaching has invariably been my consistent passion and making a difference in students’ lives brings the best out of my teaching abilities and skills. I am enthusiastic to share my knowledge and passion with my students. When I see students grow and increase knowledge in ASL, that is impactful to me. This career is definitely an interesting and challenging profession but always rewarding to see the big differences in every student’s education as well. They inspire me and they make me a better teacher.”
On growing up bilingual
“Because I grew up with ASL and English, I definitely function like a bilingual individual. I learned the two languages separately, but at the same time. Sometimes with idioms or phrases, I’ll have to translate the two languages before signing. In doing this, I’ve learned that for some ASL signs, there are no English words, and vice versa, so that’s where the challenge comes in but I am really proud to be a bilingual individual.”
What are the challenges for you teaching ASL?
“Learning a new language will always be challenge however, it would enrich your knowledge and experience. The challenge would be the first day of ASL 1 class; my students are not familiar with the language. I usually have an interpreter in the room to be sure students get the important information about the class and among other things. After that, we use ASL only. Because students can’t speak in class, that’s how they learn quickly in a more natural environment. Because I’m deaf, I’m teaching student my native language, while they are learning a second language. Because I’m a native user, I can create a really rich learning environment for my students.”
On working with the Deaf community
“I always encourage my student to go out into the Deaf community and communicate in ASL with people. This is really the best way to really learn ASL and become comfortable with the language because as with any language, it’s conversational and cultural – so gathering with others is the best way to learn the language in the fullest way possible.”
Has teaching ASL and interpreting evolved with new technology?
“We are teaching more classes online and we have sites we can use to practice. The most popular program we use for ASL/INT courses would be GoReact, a video site where we can upload videos of students signing and giving feedback. I can then review the work and leave comments on students’ work. We use this in class for both peer interaction and student/teacher interaction. There are also many online studies about Deaf culture and literature.”
Are there any age-old perceptions about ASL you’d like to change?
“In fact, some people constantly think ASL is not a language, but that is untrue because ASL is a natural language that has its own grammar and syntax. Learning ASL has many benefits such as bilingualism, language acquisition at an early age, communication efficiency, and the list goes on. It is, indeed, a very beautiful and unique language.”
Sharer Rodriguez holds a master’s in ASL and English Bilingual Education from University of California at San Diego and a bachelor’s in communications and media studies from Gallaudet University.
Sharer Rodriguez is married to Sam who is a third class petty officer in the U.S. Navy. The couple lives in Virginia Beach with a dog, Willow. Sharer Rodriguez enjoys reading, exploring, learning new things and traveling.