Signing Time Academy 2013-2014 Instructor of the Year

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

The Signing Time Academy is proud to announce Amy Joines of Austin, Texas as our 2013-2014 Instructor of the Year!

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Each year, the Academy members nominate their peers for this award, and then the final decision is made by popular vote from the entire Academy.

Amy’s interest in signing, goes back as far as the 4th grade. It was then that she met a friend who was Deaf. The friendship was quick to form, as was Amy’s love of signing. She was drawn in by the beauty of the hand movements and this wonderful way to communicate. Amy and her childhood pal are still friends to this day. Rachel Coleman, co-creator of Signing Time, has always felt that teaching a child sign language can open the door to new friendships, and Amy’s early story illustrates that perfectly.

When she was in college, Amy would volunteer her time at the Delaware School for the Deaf. Her connection to the Deaf community, culture, and language was always strong.

Amy saw the language as beautiful, lyrical, and artistic and continued her connection with it however possible. In fact, she even signed with her own son who is now 22 years old – long before “baby signing” was even a thing.

Two years ago, Amy moved to Texas and saw Signing Time! on TV. She loved everything about the program and watched when she could. It was shortly after that, while browsing through the Signing Time website, she saw the opportunity to become an Academy Instructor.

But, she didn’t jump at the chance right away. She was not an interpreter, and although she had taught in classrooms, had a degree in music therapy, and even had run a daycare, she didn’t feel she was qualified enough. However, more careful review of the Academy website showed she could in, fact, qualify.

She registered to be an Academy Instructor, got certified, and with the full support of her fiancé, started her business in March of 2013.

It has been an incredible year for Amy! Her first location was a baby store, Baby Earth, located about 30 miles north of where she lives. She drives up there almost every day – a commute totally worth it, as the store has been very supportive and encouraging. Starting with just one class, she is now up to five at that location alone.

She also teaches at Natural Baby Company – another store that has been incredibly supportive. Every Monday she does a signing storytime at a store called Kaleidoscope Toys. And finally, a free signing storytime at the Round Rock Public Library. And, in case that wasn’t quite enough, you can find Amy at a variety of other venues doing individual signing storytimes. None of these locations charge rent – her wonderful and engaging presence brings in customers and clients, and it is a fantastic trade off for all involved.

Amy has quickly seen the benefit of signing with her tiny students – most of whom are under age two. For instance, a boy named Ollie got himself into a bit of trouble when jumping on the couch one too many times. He took a hard spill and was clearly injured. Mom rushed him to a walk-in clinic where he repeatedly signed HURT over his left ankle. The doctor was mystified. Was this two-year-old clearly pointing out exactly where his pain was? Of course, Ollie was doing just that! In fact, Ollie’s clear communication saved him a lot of extra tests and unnecessary xrays… and left one very impressed doctor!

Amy loves watching the growth of her students. Starting as little as two and three months, she often has graduates of her program still under one year of age who are signing up a storm. She encourages parents to stay consistent and wait for that “ah-ha moment”, where the child makes the connection that these hand shapes have real meaning for communication… and then the signing explodes.

She also laughs at how working with such tiny clients keeps her on her toes. When you work with these babies, you have to be able to think on your feet, change your agenda at a moment’s notice, and be ready with bubbles at all times!

Clearly, Amy’s peers in the Academy have seen her passion and the growth she has made. She’s not afraid to step outside of the box, try something new, and go for it. Her willingness to put herself out there and share the joy and power of signing has resulted in quick success and wonderful opportunity for the little ones and their families who are lucky enough to find her.

As Amy says, “I love what I do. I love the program. I love what Signing Time stands for. I love what we can bring to the children and their families. I love the fun that the parents have in seeing that they can communicate with their children.”

You can follow where Amy will be teaching by visiting her Signing Time Academy profile.

Congratulations, Amy! The entire Signing Time Family wishes you the very best and much continued success!!

We also want to acknowledge the hard work of all of those who were nominated for this award. Thanks for all you do!

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