Signing Time Academy Announces Ten “Associate Directors”

by Gwen Cox, Signing Time Academy DirectorSigning Time Academy Logo

We are pleased to introduce you to our Associate Directors in the Signing Time Academy! This is a new position that was created to support our rapidly-growing group of Signing Time Instructors. Ten Associate Directors have been selected from our pool of Certified Master Instructors to help motivate, inspire and direct Instructors while also providing guidance for all new applicants coming to the Academy. Associate Directors work as extensions of the Signing Time Academy Director, Gwen Cox.

If you are considering applying to become an Instructor, contact any of the Associate Directors below. You can start with an instructor in your region or area, or you can choose anyone you feel drawn to. They will be happy to answer all of your questions, walk you through the application process, and share with you the benefits joining our team! Certified Instructors share Signing Time products and teach “official” Signing Time classes to families around the world.

For more information about applying to the Academy, go to This could be a great way to supplement your income and provide families with a fun way to communicate by sharing Signing Time classes and programs in your community!

Signing Time Academy Associate Directors:

Carissa Martos
Carissa Martos

Carissa Martos – Northwest Region: Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota. Also: South Korea, China, Mongolia.

I’m Carissa Martos, founder of PDX Loves Signing LLC, and I teach American Sign Language vocabulary to children and families in the Portland area. I have a Bachelor’s in English, am currently working towards my Master’s in Teaching, and I’m pursuing Deaf Studies and Sign Language Interpreter’s Certificates. An award-winning artist and freelance journalist working on my first non-fiction book, I’m also an advocate for my two young children with special needs.

Experienced working with the adult disabled population, as a live-in assistant for a blind woman and then full-time caretaker of a paraplegic man with a brain injury, I have recently begun to learn about the world of pediatric disability through my children. My daughter didn’t talk until she was two and a half, but she began communicating through sign when she was eighteen months old, and she’s now quite the chatterbox. My son’s disabilities are more severe, craniosynostosis and global developmental delays, and we were told that he might not ever speak. He also wasn’t interested in learning ASL from us. However, due to Signing Time and his sister’s influence, he has learned to sign and even has a few spoken words!

My family does much of our local travel in a cargo bicycle, and my husband and I read novels aloud, and work on perfecting our forever home in SE Portland. I’m a proud member of Hands and Voices, and the Oregon Association of the Deaf and I volunteer as a Cranio-Kids mentor, helping other parents whose children have craniosynostosis. I knit, paint, and create digital and traditional collages in what little spare time I have. The path has not always been easy, but I’m excited to be able to share through my Signing Time classes, proven ways to help children with special-needs communicate more clearly.

Christine Fitzgerald
Christine Fitzgerald

Christine Fitzgerald – Pacific Region: Northern California, Alaska, Hawaii. Also: Micronesia including New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand.

I am Christine Fitzgerald and I teach American Sign Language vocabulary to babies and children in the Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena areas of Los Angeles through my company, We Sign Family. I discovered Signing Time when I wanted to teach ASL to my son and I fell in love with the program. When the Academy opened its doors, I was one of the first lined up to join. I am thrilled to be able to share Signing Time with the families in my area.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with High Distinction in the dual majors of English and Anthropology. During my college career, I also participated on my community college’s forensics team, where I took home a national gold medal for Persuasive Speaking at the Phi Rho Pi National Tournament. It was during college that I began my studies in American Sign Language, something I had always wanted to learn.

I have an extensive background working with children in various fields. In Alabama, I ran acting groups and classes for teenagers and adults. I toured with a southeastern company performing Opal at elementary schools, where I also taught the children brief lessons on what childhood was like in the early 1900s at an Oregon logging camp. After moving to Los Angeles, I worked as a children’s birthday party entertainer, performing at over one thousand parties, including parties for high profile celebrities. I am excited to be able to bring my various talents to the Signing Time curriculum and to the children of my city.

I read, write and enjoy creating short films in my spare time, of which I have less since my son was born. I do not mind at all, however.

Lonna Leghart
Lonna Leghart

Lonna Leghart – Southwest Region: Southern California, Nevada, Utah. Also: Mexico and South America.

Hello from Oceanside, California! I am the mother of one outstanding signer and have over 12 years experience in non-traditional education. My passion for learning languages led me to Signing Time and – more recently – the new Signing Time Academy. I am honored to be recognized as an Associate Director.

When my son was seven months old, I introduced him to sign language, and the results are amazing. We reduced tantrums, he began reading at 2.5 years, and his oral vocabulary continues to amaze us. Signing Time music, DVDs, and board books are the keys to keeping my son’s interest in American Sign Language and keeping me one step ahead of his quickly growing signing vocabulary.

Our success inspired the creation of Discovery Sign Language, a family-centered business with a mission to spread the joy of signing with children. Since 2005, I have shared American Sign Language with 400+ families at more than a dozen locations in North San Diego County.

Discovery Sign Language classes can currently be found on Tuesday and Saturday mornings at Babies in Bloom in Vista, California. Children (ages 0-4 yrs) and their parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are welcome. I also enjoy sharing sign language with play groups, elementary classrooms, and early intervention specialists.

In my free time I read, dance, act, bike and play at the beach. Everywhere I go, I love to sign!!

Kyle Stielow
Kyle Stielow

Kyle Stielow – Midwest Region: Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona. Also: Indonesia, including Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Hello, I’m Kyle Stielow. I live in Conifer, Colorado with my husband and two beautiful children ages 4 years and 18 months. I have taught preschool in Summit County and Denver and have signed with the children in my classes for over 15 years. I was first introduced to sign language as a young child by my mother.

I was introduced to Signing Time at a teaching conference. In the seminar we learned how to sign 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed using American Sign Language (ASL). I purchased the first three Signing Time DVDs before the end of the conference, not knowing what a rewarding adventure I was embarking on. I have been using Signing Time ever since.

The benefits of signing were validated for me when the children in my classroom moved on to the next class. The teacher would come to observe and ask why little Johnny or Suzy never seemed to throw a tantrum for me but all they seemed to do in her room was scream. After mentoring, this teacher learned some basic signs and watched a Signing Time DVD. When she put signing to practice in her classroom, the screaming stopped. She had finally learned to communicate with her students on their level. I believe that all children learn differently and ASL is one of the tools to help every child become extraordinary.

After my children were born I continued signing at home. My daughter loves “talking” to children of all ages. We have run into children at the park who are deaf and she doesn’t miss a beat. You would have thought they were friends meeting up for a play date. I know Signing Time and ASL have reduced frustration in my home as well as helped my family learn a second language.

Kimberly Schaefer
Kimberly Schaefer

Kimberly Schaefer – Central Region: Missouri, Texas, Tennessee. Also: Russia, Middle-Eastern countries includnig Tureky, India, Saudi, and Iran.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, I have been attracted to sign language since I was a young girl and was curious about a sign language book on my mother’s bookshelf. For the last 12 years, I have been lucky enough to call myself a Sign Language Interpreter and have taught sign language concepts to families since 2006. My passion of Entertainment Interpreting brings me the opportunities of working with artists from Daughtry, Brooks & Dunn, 50 Cent and more.

All of those experiences have enhanced my ability to take sign language and be creative with it, in turn making my role as a Master Signing Time Instructor a perfect fit. Signing Time and the Signing Time Academy has made me realize teaching sign language to families can be so much more fun and tremendously easier when you have the perfect tools at your fingertips.

I am also Mommy to a five year old son, to whom I taught American Sign Language before he could speak (and who begs me to watch Signing Time DVDs with him and his friends). As a family, we love to play together outside, whether biking to a park; playing chase with Jack, our 8 year old black lab; or camping and floating on the lake with friends and family. To occupy my ‘Me Time’ I take great pleasure in reading and relaxing in my hammock, rockin’ out to great music of all kinds, and just taking in the world around me…the world that has brought me to this thrilling new adventure as Associate Director for the Central Region.

Ronai Brumett
Ronai Brumett

Ronai Brumett – Upper Midwest Region: Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin. Also: Africa.

Hi, my name is Ronai Brumett and I am an Associate Director and Master Instructor with Signing Time Academy. I have a Deaf Studies Certificate from both North Hennepin Community College and Saint Paul College. I am currently enrolled in the Sign Language Interpreter/Transliterator AAS Degree and will graduate spring of 2011.

I’ve been married to the love of my life for over 15 years and we have 4 amazing children. Joey is 14, Ellie is 12, Stuart is 10 and Nate is 8. I began teaching my four children sign language at a very early age and soon saw the benefits as they excelled in both motor and verbal skills. Signing comes naturally to children and as you learn with Signing Time you will increase your sign vocabulary in a way that is fun & easy. Signing as a family is an experience you will never regret.

The Signing Time curriculum is wonderfully interactive with games and songs to help everyone learn. I look forward to partnering with you as you discover the joys of not only effective communication with your children, but also in learning a new language shared by millions around the world!

Kimberly Fries
Kimberly Fries

Kimberly Fries – Southeast Region: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina. Also: All Caribbean Islands.

My name is Kimberly Fries, and I am Master Signing Time Instructor and Associate Director for the Southeast. As a licensed pediatric speech and language pathologist, I graduated from the University of Central Florida. I have always worked with small children, age birth to six and currently work in Early Intervention with birth to three year olds. Orlando is home to me, my husband and two boys. We enjoy camping, going to the beach and going to Universal Studios when we have time.

I started using sign language with children in speech therapy. When my first son arrived we signed with him and by 18 months old he was communicating verbally. We enjoyed our older son’s insight into the world long before he could talk. Our younger son relied on sign language when he developed a speech disorder that interfered with his ability to communicate. He signed his first three word phrase at 10 months old. I can’t imagine my children not signing and both boys continue to sign today.

Professionally and personally, I have seen the benefits of using American Sign Language with children. I have been teaching American Sign Language to families for eight years and am very excited to be part of the Signing Time Academy team. Using Signing Time with my own children, those receiving therapy and pre-verbal infants has allowed me to assist so many families in communicating effectively. The look in the eyes of the parents and children when they use that first sign still touches me.

Jennifer Lloyd
Jennifer Lloyd

Jennifer Lloyd – Central Atlantic Region: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia. Also: British Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland), Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland.

My name is Jennifer Lloyd and I live in the Washington, D.C. area. I have a wonderful husband, an amazing three year old girl and, in my opinion, the best job in the whole world!

I am the founder of Bright Mind Academy, a company that was built on my belief in teaching sign language to children. I have been teaching sign language for almost three years and it is truly the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I would love to support you in achieving your dream of becoming a Signing Time Academy Instructor.

Over ten years ago, I was sitting on an airplane watching the couple across the aisle from me. They were communicating with their young child through hand movements and they explained that they were signing with their child. It was my first exposure to signing with children and although I didn’t know it at the time, that brief introduction would significantly impact my life.

When my daughter was born, I knew I wanted to sign with her. In looking for resources, I discovered the Signing Time DVD’s. Together we watched the DVD’s and learned so many signs. My daughter’s ability to sign at an early age was incredible. Having the ability to communicate with my daughter through signing was life changing and I wanted to share this gift with other parents.

When Signing Time Academy was announced, I knew that I wanted to be an instructor. I already had such a belief in the products and I had experienced firsthand the impact it has on families.

The position of Associative Director is icing on the cake. In addition to having the best job in the world, I have now been given the opportunity of supporting others such as you in becoming Signing Time Academy Instructors. Hand in hand, we can change the world, one child at a time!

Kate Sutherland
Kate Sutherland

Kate Sutherland – Atlantic Northeast Region: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey. Also: Europe.

My first exposure to ASL occurred when I was just a toddler watching an interpreter at church. Every Sunday I attempted to connect the pastor’s words with her signs. I continued learning on my own, and at 13, I befriended the only Deaf boy in my junior high. After a few months we decided to establish an after school program to teach our peers to sign as well. His interpreter was happy to help, and soon several students had joined us. At 16 I enrolled in formal ASL classes at the University of Southern Maine. Once having experienced these classes and the Deaf community I knew that both would be a part of my life forever.

I continued on to the ASLIE (Interpreter Training) Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. After spending 3 years there I became anxious to gain more hands-on experience, so I moved to southern California and worked for the Deaf publishing company, DawnSignPress. This is where I first became familiar with Signing Time, as we sold many of their products. Having several nieces myself, I purchased each of the DVDs we had in stock and sent them to my sisters. (Their children loved them and still do after nearly 3 years!)

After one year, due to family circumstances, I came back to the east coast. I taught at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf from winter 2008 until fall 2009. With the birth of my daughter Eva, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Naturally, Signing Time quickly became a part of our daily routine. As she grows, I seek to become more actively involved again with ASL. Being a mother and teaching ASL are the two most important things to me in life, and being a Signing Time Instructor makes both possible.

Ashlea Weber
Ashlea Weber

Ashlea Weber – Canadian and Upper Atlantic Region: Canada, New York, Maine. Also: the North Pole (Santa will need an A.D.!)

Hi! My name is Ashlea Weber and I have been sharing the exciting world of sign language for young children for over 4 years. I am a Certified Master Instructor with the Signing Time Academy and I own and operate SmallTalk Academy, which runs classes in Barrie, Newmarket and Alliston in Ontario Canada. I attended George Brown College in Toronto Ontario for Early Childhood Education and have worked with children, developing stimulating curriculum and activities for over 10 years. I was chosen to be part of a government-led business program and have taken many business and ASL courses.

I am the mom to a gorgeous 5 year old boy and a passionate volunteer to many causes. I am completely thrilled to be chosen to represent Signing Time as an Associate Director as I hope to introduce many new families to the joys of signing with their little ones. I’m so excited to share my knowledge with many new instructors so they can have the confidence to share this wonderful gift of communication in their community. As both a parent and professional, I have seen firsthand the many benefits of signing and using Signing Time with all children. I am also bilingual – I speak both English and French.

I am also the Canadian wholesale distributor for Signing Time, which means I am helping to spread Signing Time throughout Canada.

13 thoughts on “Signing Time Academy Announces Ten “Associate Directors””

  1. Randy Lee (angels_pop)

    Congratulations, all of you! It sounds like the ST World is in good hands!

    Ashlea, I’m curious to know Santa’s user name at the Academy!!

    Lonna, we gotta talk!

  2. Thanks, everyone! And congrats to my fellow ADs! I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing group.

    Yes – Randy and all of the wonderful Instructors in Utah, Nevada, and SoCal – let’s talk 🙂

  3. Awesome job ladies! Congratulations! You are an inspiration to us all. Ashlea- have you ever been told that you look like Didi from American Idol? I look forward to working you with as I start my own business. Good luck and best wishes!

  4. You should all be very proud of your past accomplishments! I’m excited to see what you will do in the near future, bringing Signing Time joy to hundreds of new families! And Kate, I’m especially proud of YOU!

  5. Congrats Ladies! I’m sure you will do a fabulous job and I look forward to the progress we will all be making.

    I look forward to chatting with Lonna soon.

    AST Instructor

  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!! I look forward to working with and meeting all of you. Kate-we’ll be in touch! Sue

  7. What an impressive group! I can hardly wait until I become an instructor and have the opportunity to learn and grow with all of you.

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