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Amy Andersen

Position: American Sign Language Teacher

School: Ocean City High School

School District: Ocean City School District

City, State: Ocean City, New Jersey

About the Nominee: Amy Andersen was nominated by her superintendent, Kathleen Taylor.

Ms. Andersen founded and single-handedly developed the ASL program at Ocean City High School (OCHS) in 2004. The program, which has significantly changed her district, started with 42 students. By the second year, 142 students registered for the classes. Student interest has continued to grow, and as a result, ASL I, II and III are now offered. Ms. Andersen has made ASL one of the most popular programs in OCHS. She has created a place where students find inspiration, self-confidence, a nurturing environment and often, their future. The entire district and surrounding community has been transformed as more awareness of and respect for Deaf culture and ASL spreads.

Her impact extends beyond the four walls of her classroom. She encourages her students to find their passion by enabling them to realize the positive changes in themselves and the unique contributions they have to offer. Ms. Andersen is continually reaching out to develop a nationwide network of Deaf and hearing professionals to enhance what she teaches and to expand her students’ experiences.

Ms. Andersen has been contacted for advice and support by teachers from around the country who have also recognized her success. In 2007, she presented at the New Jersey Department of Education Administrators Roundtable, giving an overview of the OCHS ASL program.

Year after year, Ms. Andersen connects with her students, and in turn, with the local Deaf community. These ties continue long after students graduate. Ms. Andersen teaches students from different backgrounds to come together to form what students refer to as an “ASL family.”

Nicholl, a current ASL III Honors student, said, “The class is a diverse mixture of students I probably wouldn’t ordinarily be friends with, not in terms of ethnicity or social status, but the typical high school cliques that separate us all. From the beginning, we learn about diversity and acceptance… how to look at a group of people who are different and view them as equals and a variation of ourselves.”

In addition to OCHS, Ms. Andersen’s influence has dramatically changed the broader Ocean City community, as well. As part of her class, she gives students opportunities to meet, sign with and learn from role models in the Deaf community. For example, using her classroom videophone, she connects students to people like Bruce Bucci, the Director of Deaf Studies at Boston University and Carl Andreasen, a Deaf survivor of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Every month, Ms. Andersen helps run ASL Socials at a local Starbucks, where Deaf volunteers practice ASL with her students. Because of Ms. Andersen, Ocean City has become known as a Deaf-friendly town, and her program is a resource to the surrounding community, as well. When a local day care center reached out to Ms. Andersen regarding a Deaf baby in the center, she encouraged OCHS students to volunteer after school a few hours a week to provide language stimulation for the baby through play. Not only did the baby become more confident and communicative, but the ASL students became more aware of their inner talents and love for ASL.

In addition to providing a phenomenal ASL program, Ms. Andersen offers a nurturing, safe place for students to learn while building their confidence and opening up opportunities.

Ana, a graduate of the class of 2014, wrote, “Before I took your class, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future, but your passion for ASL and Deaf culture inspired me. Without your constant support and encouragement, I never would have found the confidence in my signing to succeed. Thank you for always believing in my abilities, even when I did not. And most importantly, thank you for changing my life!”

Each year, Ms. Andersen’s students present a well-attended ASL Show, the proceeds of which support ASL scholarships for senior students and Deaf related charities.

In 2014, the show’s theme was “Stand for the Silent.” Ms. Andersen found a way to unite the general public, her ASL students and the Deaf community with an anti-bullying theme. Students produced an ASL video based on Stand for the Silent’s signature song, “Hey Bully,” which went viral and now has 37,266 views! Students also brought in Kirk Smalley, the founder of Stand for the Silent, to present his message to OCHS, surrounding districts and the general public.

Ms. Andersen has received a number of honors and awards for her considerable and notable achievements beginning with, but certainly not limited to, earning National Board Certification – Exceptional Needs Specialist: Deaf/Hard of Hearing (2002-2012); New Jersey Association of the Deaf Award (2011); Atlantic County Society of the Deaf Certificate of Appreciation (2014); ASL Teacher of the Year (2014); and OCHS Teacher of the Year (2016).

In conclusion, it is clear that Ms. Andersen fosters a sense of community and responsibility for others in her students. She has had a life-changing effect, not only on the hundreds of students who have been fortunate enough to take her classes, but on the entire school community, including parents, and the hearing and Deaf communities of Ocean City, New Jersey.

Posted in LifeChanger of the Year Nominees 2016-2017 and tagged .

89 Comments

  1. I am so excited to hear that Amy Andersen was nominated for Life changer of the year. She has change my life in many ways.

    I took American Sign Language (ASL) my junior year of high school, from day one I knew I wanted to pursue ASL for the rest of my life. Amy has opened a lot of oppprotunities for me that I would not have had the chance to experience otherwise; such as visiting Gallaudet University, which is the only Deaf college in the United States, learning about Deaf culture, and metting many of the Deaf community in our area and feeling welcomed. To this day I am still welcomed to Deaf events in my hometown thanks to the Starbucks Deaf chats Amy introduced me to.

    With help from Mrs. Andersen I applied to Bloomsburg University in their ASL/ English interpreting program. I was accepted to Bloomsburg December of my Senior year. I am now a Junior at Bloomsburg and I will be graduating Spring of 2018 and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I made so many friends over the past three years at college and I could not imagine my life without them. I owe that to Mrs. Andersen. I could not think a better candidate for this award.

  2. When my son, Shane (CODA) was in his sophmere year at OCHS which was just newly built, we were invited for the new building tour. We were the first ones that met Amy who just moved here from Boston. She interpreted for me and we started to get to know each other. I was excited for her to bring the ASL world education in my back yard. Shane was her student during his junior & senior years. I, along with some dear friends shared all different info, resources, events, etc from deaf community to her for her classroom. After introducing more deaf community advocates to her students who were inspired by Amy pursing into studying for deaf education, interpreter, etc. after graduation, we helped with play rehearsal, exam practice, ASL practice & more. The first time when I was invited to her classroom a long time ago, I knew some of her students would have their successful stories related to deaf cultural. Her passion, motivation, encouragement, support & inspiration have amazed the ENTIRE deaf community in New Jersey!!! You deserve this award, my friend!!!! XO Annmarie

  3. Although I don’t have Mrs. Andersen as a teacher yet, I am so excited to have her next year! Everybody I know that takes ASL has fallen in love with the language, culture, and of course Mrs. Andersen. I was so excited when I picked my sophomore year classes, the first class I wrote down was ASL! Mrs. Andersen has clearly changed many people’s lives, and she isn’t done yet. 🙂 <3

    • Thank you Rebecca! I’m excited to meet you 🙂 stop by before next year to say hello – I may have an extra workbook laying around to help you get started over the summer! It’s students like you who come into ASL excited and enthusiastic that end up being ASL superstars!

  4. We were very pleased to learn that Amy Andersen had been nominated for the National Life Changer of the Year Award. We have seen first handedly how she has changed lives.

    Our daughter, Jennifer, graduated from Ocean City HS where Ms. Andersen was her American Sign Language (ASL) Teacher. Jennifer wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue in college; however, after her first year of ASL 1 as a junior, it was clear to her that she wanted to become a Sign Language Interpreter. With Ms. Andersen’s guidance, support and mentoring, she has made an enormous impact on our daughter’s life.

    Jenny is currently a Junior at Bloomsburg University in their ASL interpreting program and her strong foundation of ASL was taught by Ms. Andersen in High School. Not only did Ms. Andersen teach ASL, she also introduced her students to the Deaf Community and culture by organizing monthly Socials at a Local Coffee Shop to introduce the deaf community to the students. Amy gave our daughter the confidence & guidance to pursue her goal.

    Not only has she impacted our daughter’s life, Ms. Andersen has impacted and educated the community. Through the inspiration of Ms. Andersen, my husband and I have been taking ASL classes in the community.

    • Thank YOU both! Your daughter has left a lasting impression on my life. I am so fortunate to be able to keep up with her successes on her journey – she keeps in touch, she babysits for my mischievous children and crazy dogs😂 , she helps out with our annual ASL show and she spent an entire day of her vacation during winter break in my classroom presenting to my ASL students – paying it forward and giving back a little to where she started out. She is a bright, beautiful soul and I am very proud of you and George for taking ASL!!! What a testament to the love you have for your daughter !

  5. Mrs. Andersen has impacted my life in such a powerful way. She has introduced me to an amazing community that I want to always be apart of my life. Over the years she has encouraged me to become the best person and signer that I can be. She has helped me find an amazing college that will further my dreams and career goals and gave me a place to embrace my passion. Over the years by being a part of the ASL show she gave me a place and environment in which I can thrive in. I never felt like an out fast while in her class or the ASL show and felt like I was a apart of something bigger. Mrs.Anderen intoduced me to my dream job and gave me what I have been longing for for years, a purpose. She was the turing point in my life that made me realize I can be a part of something bigger and will always have someone in my corner.

    • Valerie I am so incredibly proud of you as an ally in the Deaf community, an ASL student and an exceptional young lady – sincere human being. You are a beautiful, vibrant, smart and talented individual on your way to absolute success. Most importantly i know you are going to truly make a positive difference in the world of Deaf education. You helped to set the bar for greatness. And you are absolutely right you WILL always have someone in your corner, me ❤

      https://youtu.be/tMu3o75yv_k
      This was incredible

  6. Pingback: Amy Andersen, OCHS ASL teacher, nominated for LifeChanger award – Ocean City Sentinel – LifeChanger of the Year

  7. Mrs. Amy Andersen has changed my life so much. She was the teacher I would go to when I was crying in school. The teacher I would go to when I was happy. I would tell her everything. She became a dear friend of mine as well as a mentor. I struggle with depression during high school and she acted as a guiding hand to help me find happiness and stability. She taught me much more than ASL. She taught me about life. She taught me about love and friendship and shared her wisdom and experience with me. She has quite frankly saved my life. She has talked me out of suicidal thoughts. She has made me feel like I am worth it. She taught me not to let anyone Define Me.

    • Tears are flowing – that was beautiful and so are you. One of the best experiences of my teaching career was sitting in the audience that night watching you sign Define Me flawlessly, with feeling and confidence. I was and am so, so proud.

  8. To denote Ms. Anderson as LifeChanger of the Year would be awarding her with the highest praise. A dedicated teacher by trade, Ms. Anderson positively affects our school community and local communities throughout the year. When in her classroom, it is apparent that she connects with every student and supports the differences in individuals’ learning styles. She also extends her teaching beyond the classroom by guiding students to use the technology tools in their hands to go global and connect with other schools, students, communities, and special guests. Overall, Ms. Anderson provides students an opportunity…to learn new skills, build knowledge, become leaders, and be successful in our growing communities and ever-changing world.

  9. Ms.Anderson is the most considerate teacher I know. She is caring and strives for her students to do their best. She’s accepting and is one of the greatest teachers at OCHS. I look forward to her class everyday. If there’s any person that deserves this this award, it’s her.

  10. When I’m in my class before Asl I get so excited to learn new signs other then Spanish and other langueses I tried to learn in the past I really enjoy asl and signing in general. We do exciting activities and everyone participates in the class and no one gets left behind. Amy Anderson loves her job and enjoys teaching asl very much. Congratulations Amy🎉 👍🏼

  11. I’ve never met a teacher that makes things so easy to learn. Mrs. Anderson makes things come easy. The way her teaching style works is show tell do. She shows us how to sign and tells us the right way to do it. Then she lets us do the signs. This class and Mrs. Anderson make me want to learn more about the deaf culture and maybe further my education in deaf education. She is the only ASL teacher at our school and she runs an amazing class for ASL 1, 2, and 3 while also running a club. She is an amazing teacher and person. I’m so happy that i chose to take ASL this year.

  12. I first heard of ASL Through my upper classmen friends because they would talk nonstop about it. I knew that when I came to high school I had to take ASL. I came into the class expecting it to be easy and fun, and although it is very fun, it is not easy. Mrs. Anderson teaches us not just about the language of ASL, but the culture and meaning behind the DEAF community. I used to think that being deaf was a disability, but Mrs Anderson has taught me that that is not true. I now am excited to come to class everyday and learn something new. Mrs. Anderson is one of the nicest and most interesting teachers I have ever had. Although I am only in ASL 1, I know that I will be taking ASL for the rest of high school, and my perspective on Deaf people has changed forever.

  13. Mrs.Anderson is super chill she allows me to asks a million questions a day and never gets mad. She has helped me through out the year tremendously! She is the bomb.com 🙂

  14. Mrs. Andersen is genuinly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She cares about everyone individually and is always more than happy to help. I am so happy I decided to take this class, she is so positive and inspiring. Mrs. Andersen has touched so many hearts and truly is a life changer in so many students’ lives. Thank you Mrs. Andersen.

  15. Words cant even describe how grateful i am for Mrs. Anderson. I went into her class on the first day ready to just drift by the course and not really pay attention, but that changed instantly. I look through these comments, and all of them are 100% honest. Not only does she teach how asl is more than a language, she is so kind and patient.

  16. Mrs Anderson inspires me to try new things. Coming into ASL my only focus was passing the class but throughout the year so far she has taught to me in a way that makes me genuinely interested in deaf culture and sign language history. I have never learned a language as fast as I have learned ASL and I know that that is mostly because of Mrs Anderson and the way that she teaches the class. She inspires me to try new things and get involved in the deaf community.

  17. Mrs. Andersen is an amazing teacher. She even stays after school for countless hours to help students. In Juns, the OCHS ASL students put on a show in asl. This would be impossible to do without Mrs. Andersen. WE LOVE YOU MRS. ANDERSEN!!

  18. There aren’t enough words to describe Mrs. Andersen. She goes above and beyond what any other teacher would do to make sure her students are enjoying her class. When you enter her room, you are immediately “bitten by the ASL bug”. She changes all of her students perspective of ASL and Deaf Culture itself. Any student that goes to OCHS has heard about ASL and Mrs. Andersen, because she is just that good.

  19. Ms.Andersen is a teacher who takes the time to make sure every student understands and is very patient with everyone. Her passion for what she does really shows and is always helpful to every student.

  20. Ms. Andersen is the most understanding and caring teacher I have ever had. She truly cares about each and every student. She works above and beyond in everything she does. Her passion for the Deaf community is inspiring to everyone. She is a loving and caring person. Ms. Andersen is like a second mom to all the students. She truly changes lives in the most amazing way possible.

  21. Mrs. Andersen has changed so many people’s lives. She has gone out of her way to make sure her students understand the Deaf Culture and ASL. Anyone who has taken her class, or walked by her class, can understand why she is a fantastic teacher.

  22. MRS. ANDERSEN IS THE MOST AMAZING PERSON I HAVE EVER MET. SHE BRINGS LIFE TO EACH AND EVERYONE OF HER STUDENTS EVERDAY. HER TEACHER SKILLS HAVE BEEN BY FAR THE BEST I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCE IN MY 17 YEARS. NO ONE WILL EVER GET A TEACHER LIKE HER. SHE UNDERSTANDS HER STUDENTS, PUSH US TO SUCCESS, AND CHANGES OUR LIFE AS WE LEARN THE ASL CULTURE. AS I ENTERED THIS JOURNEY WITH MRS. ANDERSEN IN MY SOPHMORE YEAR I KNEW I DID THE RIGHT THING. AT FIRST I ENTERED THE CLASS I WASNT SURE BUT NOW 2 YEARS IN THIS JOURNEY AND I KNOW WHAT I LOVE. I LOVE LEARNING ASL AND LOVE WALKING INTO A-111 EVERYDAY. I HATE DAY 3’s! BECAUSE THATS WHEN I CANT SEE MRS. ANDERSEN AND LAUGH AT HER JOKES! AND I MEAN IM TELLING YOU SHE IS A FUNNY LADY AND HER JOKES ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD! DO THE RIGHT CHOICE AND MAKE HER THE LIFE CHANGER OF THE YEAR!

  23. Ms. Anderson is like a second mom to me! She always knows how to make my day go from 0 to 100. She cares so much for her students and treats them like they are her own kids which makes her very passionate and loving. She is by far the best teacher I have ever had in high school!

  24. A life changer indeed! Ms. Andersen has changed my life and educated me on deaf culture, deaf history and the deaf community. ASL was never a thought of mine when I entered OCHS in 2013 but everyone was talking about this amazing teacher and I thought why not. BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE! She has not only educated me during the school day but has given me life lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life and has given me a different perspective of the world. Never in a million years would I have thought that a teacher would have impacted my life but Ms.Andersen is someone I look up to and admire. Being my senior year, there will defiantly be some tears on graduation day knowing the following year Ms.Andereson won’t be my teacher at college. Forever and always a life changer!

  25. Ms Andersen is by far my favorite teacher, she is understanding and always looking for the beat Intrest of the student. Ms Andersen is a great teacher because her goal is for us to learn asl and truly understand it, she goes above and beyond to make sure we know what we are doing and not just “getting through the class” anyone who is in class or visits the class can tell that everyone is very into the class and really wants to learn and advance there skills in asl. Mr Andersen all in all is a great person and a great teacher.

  26. “Life changer” is right! After taking Ms. Andersen’s ASL 1 and ASL2 class, I now know what I want to do for the rest of my life. Ms. Andersen has given me the tools to embrace another beautiful part of our local community, and im so excited for the future, now that she has equipped me with the skills I need to succeed and make a difference. Her warm heart and compassionate soul makes all of her students feel welcome. She makes it clear that her room is always open, and she is always willing to listen and help. We all love Ms. Andersen, and I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.

  27. Ms. Andersen is the most deserving person I can think of for this award. She is the definition of a life changer, and I am so thankful to have encountered such a giving, helpful, and passionate teacher. She is constantly giving to her students, and we grow so much with the guidance of her and her class. Her teaching methods are interactive and creative, so we are never bored, and she never fails to help connect us to the Deaf community. This class has truly changed my outlook on life, as well as given me something to look forward to every day. She has provided her students with so many opportunities using this language, and being able to communicate with members of the Deaf community is an experience everybody should be able to have. With her class, we continuously unite Deaf people and hearing people, and create a bond that can only become stronger. I can’t think of a person more deserving of a life changer title, because she has surely changed mine in the best way possible, and I will forever be grateful. Ms. Andersen, thank you for the positive and creative learning environment you have created, me and the rest of your students appreciate everything you do for us immensely!!!

  28. Though I went into ASL thinking it would be an easy A, Mrs. Andersen has proved me wrong. She taught me how to take this class seriously and because of her, I now know things about the community I would never have known if it were not for her. She is a true life changer and sticks up for the things and people that she believes in.

  29. Ever since I started taking ASL at the beginning of the school year Ms. Anderson has been so great to me and the rest of the class. She is a very positive influence on everyone around her. Congrats on the nominee Ms. Anderson!!!

  30. Ms. Anderson has helped me very much throughout this year so far. I have learned so much sign language as well as the culture. She has helped me understand the culture and the people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Every week my knowledge expands and I have her to thank for that. This class is so fun, it makes me happy every time I walk into it and start learning new things. It’s a very positive atmosphere and a great place to learn. It’s very different from all the other classes. It’s really great when she teaches you something and you can then communicate with the deaf people in your community. She is a very positive and happy teacher, it makes me as well as other students happy. She is an amazing teacher and deserves the life changer award because she has changed mine as well as many others lives.

  31. Since last year I have wanted to take ASL and learn more about it since my cousin took it in previous years. When I was finally able to, I was overwhelmed with how amazing and positive she is. Ms. Andersen is constantly laughing and trying to make the class enjoyable by doing different activities and games. One of my favorite parts of the day is when I go to ASL because the environment is so accepting and radiates so much positivity you can’t help but be happy by what she has accomplished and does for us. No one deserves this award more than Ms. Andersen. She has opened our eyes and allowed us to see more than just the language but everything that comes with it: the pride, the growth and the change. I am so happy to have Ms. Andersen as a teacher!

  32. Mrs Andersen’s passion for deaf culture is definatly something to be seen. She is a tremendous teacher and one of my favorites. She is always there to help you understand and learn better.

  33. Ms. Andersen is a very good teacher. I’m only in asl one but I’ve learned so much. She is my favorite teacher. She makes learning fun and creative. I love this class. She is always hear to help in and out of class. She is an amazing teacher.

  34. Mrs.Andersen is my favorite teacher of the year. I have not had so much fun in any other language classes. I am so glad that i took asl as my last language of my high school carrer, i have learned many signs that i can use in the real world. Thank you for being such a great teacher!

  35. I have been in Mrs. Andersons class ever since the beginning of the school year and I love it. Everyday I look forward to going and learning something new everyday, and it is truly been an honor to meet the students that she has taught in the past. I hope I can become as successful as them one day, but for now I can give Mrs Anderson back what she gave to me. That gift would be winning this award not only for the school but for an amazing person.

  36. Mrs. Anderson is one of the most caring person I have ever met. She includes everyone in the class. She taught me that being different is okay. She has opened the door to a new culture for all of her students.

  37. Ms. Andersen is by far my favorite teacher at our school! She goes above and beyond for all of her students and the deaf community in and around ocean city. I have learned so much in just the short 5 months that I have been in her class. She teaches her students really well and actually cares about them learning and being the best they can be at ASL. Her passion for the language and the culture inspires me to learn.

  38. Mrs. Andersen is an extremely patient teacher. If you do not understand, she will help you and work through it. I look forward to going to ASL everyday.

  39. This year, I am taking Mrs. Andersen’s ASL 1 Class. Not only has she taught me an immense amount of American Sign Language, but she has opened my eyes to a whole new corner of the world. I had never before studied Deaf culture nor been given the chance to appreciate Deaf art, language, or history.

    For a long time I’ve had my mind dead set on pursuing a medical career. However, after two semesters with Mrs. Andersen, I’ve done research on becoming an interpreter, Deaf programs, and other ways that I can incorporate ASL into my life. I never thought anyone would be able to influence me so strongly and so quickly. I’m forever grateful to her for exposing me to this wonderful language and Culture.

    Mrs. Andersen is always working for the benefit of her students. I’ve only encountered a few people in my life that are as influential and intelligent as Mrs. Andersen. Her older students adore her, and speak so highly of her, and what she has done for them. Mrs. Andersen deserves this award for so many different reasons, and I hope to see her receive it.

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m so glad you’re in ASL and you’re a sophomore…we’ve got 3 years of ASL and you’re already exceptional!!

    • Hi I think ms Andersen is a great teacher she can people.she is so passionate with the deaf people fun to learn from

  40. Ms. Andersen is more than just a teacher to all of us she has become a second mom and someone who always knows just the right thing to say. On a daily basis Ms. Andersen goes out of her way to make sure that everyone has the resources they need to learn and grow as ASL students entering the real world. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met, constantly working with Deaf children in our community and giving them the resources they need in order to access language and to understand Deaf culture. She takes time out of her busy schedule to go spend time with these families and work with them. She is always sharing the progress of these children and it is so encouraging to see how much of an impact she is making on these young children’s lives so they have equal opportunities. Her passion for teaching and making a difference in the Deaf community is one of the many things that has inspired me. Her selflessness and dedication to her beliefs is what has truly made such an impact on everyone she has met! She has changed my life to always see the good and fight for everything you believe in.

    • Sophia thank you so much ! You are a sparkling addition to our classroom and I’m so happy you’re in ASL – now I have to figure out how to get you in the ASL show!

  41. We have literally known Amy for less than two months. We met at an ASL chat at Starbucks. My son Cole is 17 months old. He is profoundly deaf from birth. While jumping into the deaf community is certainly an uncomfortable thing to do because we are not familiar with the culture it was something that we absolutely had to do. The moment we walked into Starbucks we felt welcomed by all.
    Amy took an extreme interest in not only Cole but myself as well. She took the time to sit with us and discuss what we were currently doing for Cole to get him access to language as well as give us resources to help us on this incredible journey. By the time we left the chat she had already set up one of her ASL students to come to Cole’s daycare so he has access to ASL.
    The next day she added Cole’s name to an FB page that follows the progress of another little girl who is also deaf. Madi and Cole’s Fan Page. No words can really describe how touched we were by this. She cared about Cole and his future from the moment me she met him.
    She has introduced us to so many people in the deaf community. She has made me feel confident that Cole is on the right track and we are doing all the right things for him in his language accessibility. She
    has made me feel confident that my ASL is on point.
    She even offered to cover for our TOD while she is on maternity leave. Without Amy my son would not have a TOD right now.
    In just these past two months Amy has changed our lives. My son Cole has more access to ASL and the deaf community. And I am now a confident hearing parent to a deaf child.

  42. Where to even begin… This woman is a godsend. I graduated high school last year and took her ASL 1 class my junior year. In the midst of academic stresses, insecurities, adolescent confusion, family difficulties, depression and self-harm, I was able to find refuge in that ASL class. I would not have been able to pass my classes without her belief in me and constant reminder that I am good enough. Ms.Andersen was a beacon of hope, she supported me at a difficult time when it felt like no one else did. She encouraged me every day and battled the negativity in my life, as I’m sure she has done for so many other students. Because of her, I went from believing suicide was the only way out, to believing that I was and could be a “superstar”.
    So often we find ourselves running in circles trying to get ahead, putting on masks and building barriers of hate. But then there’s Amy Andersen, a real human being so full of love and acceptance, reminding the rest of us that we’re human too and that within each of us, we have the power to flourish.
    And let’s not forget how brilliant of a teacher she is. She’s not just teaching from the book and meeting requirements, she is going so out of her way and putting in an unbelievable amount of time and effort to make sure that students are immersed in ASL and the culture, all of us smiling along the way. Aware that students learn differently and at different paces, she’s come up with a variety of activities to highlight different strengths and she’s always understanding and ready to help. Every student leaves that class with a new heart towards Deaf culture and many of us walk away with a newfound passion for ASL. I am now going to a college in Indiana, majoring in Sign Language Interpreting. After talking to classmates from multiple different states, I have come to believe that Ms.Andersen’s ASL program is one of the best in the country.
    Every time I am asked how I got into ASL or how I got past my struggles, I am able to share a story that was greatly impacted by a high school ASL teacher from south Jersey. And so, her light has not only influenced me, but also those around me, spreading like a wildfire.
    You wanted a comment on one of the people I admire most in this world, and you got one. Man, if she isn’t life changer of the year, then New Jersey needs to rethink its priorities.

  43. I first “heard” of Mrs. Andersen from a friend who knew my daughter had been struggling in school for many years. It was suggested my daughter switch her “foreign” language requirement to ASL her sophomore year and to just watch the transformation one teacher could make on a student. After many years of struggling to just walk into a schools doors, after a couple classes with Mrs Andersen my daughter wanted to go to school just to not miss ASL and Mrs. Andersen’s class.

    I watched my daughter go from not knowing what she wanted to do after high school to talking about going to college. Then to researching colleges that had deaf educational courses. I watched my daughter change into someone who wanted to participate in everything offered through Mrs Andersen. From attending chats with the deaf community to sharpen her own ASL to being in the Christmas Concert and ASL shows.

    This past summer while at work several coworkers turned to Kenzi to help when deaf customers would come into our restaurant. She had the confidence to assist thanks to Amy. She had also been asked to sign a song taught by Amy at our Annual Customer Christmas party and she did it with such confidence. (https://www.facebook.com/57275753372/videos/10154785967968373/)

    Mrs. Andersen was also instrumental in encouraging my daughter to apply for an immersion camp held at Gallaudet University this summer. She took the encouragement and did the whole process with confidence thanks to the support of a phenomenal educator. The changes I’ve seen in my daughter since taking Amy’s classes are overwhelming. I will always be forever grateful to Amy for her support and encouragement.

    But her encouragement doesn’t end with her students. Mrs Andersen involves her students families in all her work also. Since meeting Amy, I have learned so much about the deaf community and have began taking ASL classes myself. This is only possible because Amy encourages family members to be involved. My youngest daughter can’t wait until she can take Mrs Andersen’s class in a couple years.

    Through her encouragement, guidance and support Mrs Andersen has truly been a life changer to not only my oldest daughter, but our entire family.

  44. Amy Andersen has changes my daughter, Ashlyn Petro’s life in so many ways. As with all of her student she ignites a love of learning and excitement to excel in a new language and culture. Ms. Andersen gave Ashlyn the opportunity to use her love of writing in collaborating and writing the ASL annuals shows (2015 & 2016). The opportunities offered to all of her students are immeasurable. For example, Student silent lunches _ ASL practice, having students teach local girl scouts ASL, organize coffee chats for students to meet and sign with the local Deaf community, organizing a DeVia Art (Deaf View/ Image Art) experience for student and local community, facilitating and scheduling the test for students to earn the seal of bi-literacy, just to name a few.
    Ms. Andersen was instrumental in encouraging Ashlyn to apply and be accepted to Gallaudet University in the HUG program (Hearing Undergraduate Program). Ashlyn has been able to continue with her love of writing; in her first few weeks at college she was published in the Gallaudet’s newspaper the Buff and Blue.
    Ms. Andersen continues to encourage and support her students after high school graduation and beyond. Due to Ms. Andersen providing my daughter with the opportunities to immerse herself in the Deaf language and culture, I too have begun to learning American Sign Language. Teachers such as Ms. Andersen are come along once in a lifetime and I am so very grateful for her dedication and love of teaching.

  45. I had the oppurtunity to meet Amy when each one of my daughters took her asl classes at OCHS. She is a wonderful person to be around. Unfortunately 1 of my daughters took her life 2 years ago but Amy named her annual scholarship after my daughter and that is a honor. She has touched each one of my daughters and gave them a chance to learn something new and different. She will forever be a part of our family and our hearts. She deserves this honor. Thank you.

  46. Amy Andersen is definitely a life changer. As a deaf community member, I have heard of her for years before having the privilege of meeting her.

    Truth be told, as a hearing teacher teaching ASL to hearing individuals, I didn’t think much of this at all, as experience in the past has given me low expectations of ASL students coming from hearing teacher’s classroom. However that changed one cold January morning back in 2015. I met her and was enamored by her involvement with the South Jersey Deaf Community. I saw that she was geninuely an ally of the deaf community. From that point on, we were social media friends, and had several small talk – talk about how to best teach the topic that was currently an issue in the Deaf Community, discussion of ideology of how deaf children should be taught and so on.

    I was invited to meet with her ASL students for the Honor Society in March 2016, again thinking less of high schoolers who learn American Sign Language. I didn’t think much of these kids, but was willing to come because of Amy Andersen. The basis of my assumptions is based on my two own kids — one who took 4 years of Spanish and can’t really converse in Spanish and the other who took Italian could care less. When I walked into the ceremony, I was blown away with the students and their fluency and ability to carry on a conversation with the deaf community who also came for their induction. They chatted, laughed, and joked among themselves. Not once did I see the students switch to English because it was just easier to communicate. Due to that encounter, I’ve been invited back on several more occasions – more because I wanted to see what made a difference between students who I know take ASL to meet the foreign language requirements compared to this lively class who was fully prepared to become a part of the community.

    During that course of time, I clearly saw that Amy Andersen was the catalyst of change for these students and for the Deaf Community in South Jersey. It’s not a large community whatsoever, but it is a strong tight knit community because they truly care for those ASL students and want to see them succeed. The Deaf Community is truly the strong backing of the ASL program that is in place in Ocean City, NJ, all because Amy Andersen makes sure these students interact with deaf individuals.

    At my last trip there, I went to several places before stopping at the High School for the last time, I ran into several people who knew sign language, or knew how to work with me and made me feel warm in their own establishment. I do not get that anywhere else except in places where there’s a large deaf community presence which is not the case in South Jersey. However I feel like this is the next Martha Vineyard – a place back in the 1700’s and 1800’s where everyone knew sign language. This is the direct result of Amy Andersen love of teaching, love of students, and most importantly love and collaboration with the Deaf Community.

  47. I love Mrs. Andersen. She is one of the best teachers, and the best teacher to get inspiration. She inspires her students in her own ways and we embrace it. She does deserve this reward and I hope that she wins it. For me, a current student of hers, I have seen from last year and this year that she is a kind, caring, and proud teacher to respect. Because of her, I am able to learn and communicate with the Deaf community. Her views have become my views and I hope to improve on those views as I still learn this year, and hopefully next year. I learned many things by taking this class. One, ASL is a beautiful language used by beautiful people. Two, ASL may not be for everyone, but trying your hardest and practice is the key to becoming a better signer. Three, Mrs. Andersen is one of our reasons for sticking to ASL as she continues to care for her students and open the students eyes to see this beautiful community that deserves so much love and respect! She encourages us to be excited to learn more about the Deaf Culture and to learn more sign to improve ourselves for the near future. I am proud to have her as my teacher and I am proud to have learned of this beautiful language that she teaches her students. She is all of our inspiration and I hope that for future generations, she will be at the school to teach more! Love you Mrs. Andersen!I love Mrs. Andersen. She is one of the best teachers, and the best teacher to get inspiration. She inspires her students in her own ways and we embrace it. She does deserve this reward and I hope that she wins it. For me, a current student of hers, I have seen from last year and this year that she is a kind, caring, and proud teacher to respect. Because of her, I am able to learn and communicate with the Deaf community. Her views have become my views and I hope to improve on those views as I still learn this year, and hopefully next year. She encourages us to be excited to learn more about the Deaf Culture and to learn more sign to improve ourselves for the near future. I am proud to have her as my teacher and I am proud to have learned of this beautiful language that she teaches her students. She is all of our inspiration and I hope that for future generations, she will be at the school to teach more! Love you Mrs. Andersen!❤️

    • Thank you Katie! You are one of the hard working, serious ASL students who obviously wants to become great – and you are!!! I’m so proud of you and how you’ve gone to Deaf events, volunteered for special opportunities and grown in your signing ability the last year and a half. You are a bright happy addition to the classroom family every day ! ❤

  48. I struggled with taking a language in High School that I could enjoy and not just worry about getting a grade in. I decided to take ASL my junior year and I took it again my senior year. I loved the interaction we got out of the course and studying not just a language but a culture and community. I loved the beauty of translating songs to ASL gloss and still do this on my own today. This wouldn’t have been possible without having such a friendly and passionate teacher such as Amy Anderson. She is a beautiful person and connects with her lessons and students. She deserves to be recognized… And thank you for everything you do and continue to do 🙂

  49. I had the honor, as an alumni of OCHS and the ASL program, to co-direct this ASL show alongside Ms. Andersen. It was called “A Voice Awakens” and she invited Deaf elementary aged children from a nearby school district to become lead characters in the show – with her high school ASL students. She also included her friends from the Deaf community to guide and coach the students so their ASL was correct and they understood the cultural perspective they were sharing. There were two alumni co-directors, young Deaf children, Deaf adult role models and high school students all coming together to create art – it truly was art. Ms. Andersen doesn’t stop being your teacher when you leave her classroom and graduate. She’s your forever teacher!

    http://www.snjtoday.com/clip/12857199/ocean-city-asl-students-share-inspiration-through-art

  50. Mrs. Andersen deserves this award more than anyone I can think of. I am a sophomore in Mrs. Andersen’s ASL 1 class at Ocean City High School and I can already feel the impact she has in my life. I came into that class in September thinking ASL only as a language, it is solely just based off of English, and that there was only one form of this language, etc,. But now I come into this class, and Mrs. Andersen opens my eyes to the beauty and brilliance of the Deaf community. She has taught me that it is not only a language but an amazing culture and community full of brilliant and caring people. She has taught me that this is it’s own language, with it’s own syntax and grammar and variations such as PSE and SEE. She has taught me this beautiful language and I am so thankful to her for that. Mrs. Andersen has changed my life. I never thought, coming into this class, that I would completely fall in love with it. Like, how many language classes will teach you the culture of the language? How many classes will make you completely indulge into their course? How many TEACHERS could make you feel like you have finally found your purpose? Mrs. Amy Andersen is the answer. She has inspired me so much in the short amount of time I have known her, she deserves this award more than anyone. She has inspired me to want to spread this language and continue this language and in all inspired me to be whoever I want to be and I am forever thankful. Thank you Mrs. Andersen for being such an influential teacher. You have changed my life.

    • Angel – your comment was absolutely beautiful! ❤ I’ve known you were an up and coming ASL star since early on this year. You are a natural and not only in skill, passion and determination but also a natural in the culture. I am so impressed with your dedication to being voice -off – all the time. You are brave and take risks in class and I hear through the grapevine you reach out older students asking for extra things to learn !!!! I’m glad you know you’ve found your passion and life’s future in ASL because I’ve known that about you too for quite a while. ❤💃🏼❤

      I was so proud to see you sign up to volunteer at the NJ School for the Deaf “ASL Connect” event in November! You devoted a Saturday, getting on a bus at 7:30am to sign songs, run a vending stand of ASL related products and interact with the Deaf community in Trenton. And you signed all day, voice-off, using as much ASL as you knew after 2 months to show your respect for the community and culture. Great things to come! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209996807455649&set=g.529998723875037&type=1&theater

  51. What inspires me most about Mrs. Anderson is her exceptional drive to out do herself. It is truly unbelievable how she manages to do it, but year after year she is heading a new project or show that betters not only her students but the entire school and community. Her ASL shows used to draw attention to American Sign Language and the program in fun ways, and get the word out. Show themes included “ASL goes broadway” where students would sign along to broadway songs, these shows were fun and bright and always managed to put smiles on faces. Then, in 2014, she headed the Stand for the Silent show. Now, the ASL students were signing inspirational songs and sponsoring events that encouraged anti-bullying. It was an honor to be a part of, and is something I am proud of, something that would not have been possible without her. And then, she did the impossible. She outdid even that. The following show was not only students signing to inspirational songs, but an entire ASL musical show, complete with scripted dialogue and a strong message about inclusion. She has managed to evolve the shows from a fun way to spread awareness about ASL to a platform to spread positivity and important messages to the students and community to consistently attend. It is truly amazing.
    And of course, it is not only through the shows and programs that she shines. She herself fully embodies the messages of the shows. Her class was absolutely the most diverse and accepting class I have ever been a part of, college classes included. Whatever high school drama happens in the halls seems to disappear in her classroom, because she is so keen on inclusion that it is impossible be anything but accepting and kind when you are in her class. The students not only learn to accept members of the Deaf community, but then transcend this message to one another. Mrs. Anderson teaches the crucial lesson that being different does not equate to a wrong, but rather differences should be encouraged and celebrated.
    She is so much more than a teacher. She offers so much to her students. She gets to know each of us individually. She offers a place to go, a person to confide in, and a program to immerse yourself in positivity when the halls of high school seem to be anything but. She has such a contagious passion that it is impossible for her students to resist. And she has absolutely changed my life. She taught me such important lessons about inclusion, positivity, and passion. And I know I am not the only life she has changed. She is there for each of her students no matter what they need. She is one of the most supportive, helpful, accepting, and caring teachers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and she deserves this award more than anything. I am grateful for all she has done for me, and proud to see she is getting the recognition she so entirely deserves.

  52. I am a current student of Amy Andersen and she has change my life. She really has inspired me to do ASL and she has changed my view on the deaf world completely. I wouldn’t be as passionate about ASL as I am today without her as a teacher. She has really changed my life and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my ASL teacher.

  53. Amy has changed the future for a lot of us. As someone who was in the very first ASL I + II classes, it’s so inspiring to see just how the impact of the program has spread. From the beginning, I felt the support and understanding that Amy served. She has a way of explaining, and being present that made language learning easy and accessible. I was always excited about heading to ASL class because there, I became a sponge. Absorbing everything I could.
    Amy receiving this award would solidify something most of us have been aware of for at least 10 years. Amy cares, Amy has heart, Amy has knowledge, and Amy wants to spread the knowledge within her kind heart.
    Thank you, Amy.

    • Thank you Lindsey! It’s been so long but I love watching your life unfold on Facebook- I love keeping up with what you’re up to. You were a kindred spirit and yes, you did absorb everything and shine! Big hugs to you

  54. There is no person I can think of that is more deserving of this award. Both my daughters have had the privilege of being taught by Ms. Anderson and her impact was “life changing”. She is a dedicated educator and a committed teacher! Congrats to her for the nomination! #LCOY

  55. Ever since the fifth grade, I had the dream of becoming a mathematics teacher. As the years past, I would take mental notes, good and bad, as I watched other teachers to try to form the type of teachers I wanted to become. When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to take two years of American Sign Language. During these two years, I figured out what kind of teacher I wanted to become because of Ms. Andersen. Her passion for the subject she taught, her love for educating, and her determination to push us to see things from different perspectives lit a fire in my future teaching soul. I am the teacher and person I am today because of Ms. Andersen. The past three years of teaching have been the best three years of my life because I now have the same passion that Ms. Andersen exemplified every single day in the classroom. I have been fortunate enough to come back and help with the annual ASL show and once again witness the impact Ms. Andersen has on her students and the community. She is a life changer. My life is proof, along with the hundreds of students’ hearts she touches every single year.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMtLpJetfuo&t=18s
      From teacher Amy Andersen and alumni directors : Emily DuBruille and Devan Fogarty This was a “gift” for the ASL Performers Club after the ASL Celebrates Life show in 2015. The students presented a beautiful 2 hour tribute to a classmate they lost that year and showed the audience their committment to celebrating their own lives with gratitude.

  56. This woman is so deserving of recognition for her dedication in teaching American Sign Language and spreading awareness about Deaf culture. I myself am Deaf and had the great fortune of meeting Amy in 2015. I notice her students always have excellent sign skills – it is so rare to see high school students socializing with the Deaf community! The atmosphere for the Deaf community in Ocean City has changed because of her. She is simply beyond an excellent ASL educator.

  57. Mrs. Andersen impacts every single one of her students lives somehow. She also makes her class fun & you want to go to it. Every year the ASL performers club puts on its annual show in June and it wouldn’t be possible without her. Mrs. Andersen has made every one of us understand and respect the language and Deaf culture. She has inspired all of us to interact with the members of the Deaf community. ImL

    • Makenzie you are a special kind of student with a drive, determination and quiet focus that is exceptional. You have truly impressed me with your talent, skill and courage. I woke up one day and you had transformed into a very accomplished ASL 2 signer! And your kindness in volunteering your time once a week, every week with a Deaf baby is commendable. You are making a difference, playing and signing with that little guy and welcoming the impact he is having on you as well! This experience will influence your future and you will remember that sweet baby forever. ❤

  58. This woman has done so much for me!!! I was truly a lost child in my teenage years and Amy encouraged growth and confidence when I needed it most. She is a wonderful teacher whose positivity is hugely influential to all her students. Due to her encouragement and direction, I attended college (something I had initially no intention to do) for Deaf Studies where I was able to skip ahead in my studies due to my ‘advanced signing’, and even went on to get my masters degree from the prestigious Deaf college, Gallaudet University. Amy has helped me find volunteer work in the Deaf community doing what I love most – teaching and learning. A huge difference between Amy’s ASL classes and a typical ASL class is her involvement in the Deaf community and promoting her students to be involved in the Deaf community as well. You don’t frequently find that, especially in high school ASL classes. My entire life – personally and professionally – has been hugely influenced by Amy’s teaching. I have no idea where I would be today without her. The world and every student’s life she touches is so lucky to have her as an educator.

  59. We love Ms Anderson she has been an amazing resource for the community as well as the preschool I work at. She has taught me how to feel more confident in my signing and has opened the language door for myself, my students, and my own children.

  60. I am a 2014 OCHS graduate that chose the field of Deaf Education after being inspired by Ms. Andersen’s passion for teaching ASL and Deaf Culture. Now, 3 years later, I am on track to graduate from The College of New Jersey with my masters degree in Deaf Education one semester early, and am very excited to begin my career. I have Amy Andersen to thank for this because she taught us so much ASL and Deaf Culture in high school, I was able to test out of many classes and was ahead of my classmates throughout my college career. In high school, Ms. Andersen taught more than just her passion for Deaf Culture, however. For me, she embodied the true passion of a great teacher. I thrive to be the life changing and inspirational kind of teacher that she has always been. I hope to reflect her accepting and caring teaching practices in my classroom one day.

  61. When people ask me who my biggest role model is, there is one name that comes to mind immediately: Amy Andersen. Being in her ASL class was a privilege and a blessing. Her love and passion of American Sign Language and Deaf Culture inspire me to pursue a career working with Deaf people. Her commitment to her work and students is astounding. She strives to enstill a love of ASL in her students every day in the classroom; always giving it her all. Every student felt included and important in her classroom, allowing everyone to receive a full learning experience. Without Amy Andersen’s guidance and support, I wouldn’t know where I would be today. In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do; I was afraid I would never find anything that interested me. After taking ASL with Amy, however, and receiving so much encouragement and attention from my wonderful teacher, I was introduced to the world of ASL and Deaf Culture; a life changing moment for me. I knew after that, that all I wanted to do was working with Deaf people in some way. I thank Amy Andersen for encouraging me to be the best person I can be.

    As a class, we also put together an anti bullying video. With the help of our teacher, we were able to orchestrate a music video and have it go viral on YouTube.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=M3MHpc8McEY

  62. Congratulations to Ms. Anderson for being a nominee. She has definitely changed my life throughout the past 2 years. Before I came to Ocean City High School I wasn’t very outgoing. I would keep to myself and i was very shy. Then when i joined the ASL class, Ms. Anderson encouraged us to express oursleves more becuase that’s what you have to do, you havs to be very expressive. I probably wouldnt have had the confidence and courage i have today, or even the friends if it wasn’t for Me. Anderson showing her love, guidance, and support.

  63. Ms. Andersen has been my ASL teacher for the past three years. When I first took her class, I was taking it as a foreign language requirement to graduate. Currently, I am enrolled in ASL 3 Honors and am planning on attending college for ASL-English Interpreting. This would not have happened without Ms. Andersen. My plan was to go to college for engineering, but Ms. Andersen saw I had a great deal of potential as an interpreter. She encouraged me to build my signing skills and to look into interpreting as a career. Without Ms. Andersen, my life would be going in a completely different direction, one that I wouldn’t be happy with.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwlrS34TQ-g
      Michael, the honor has been truly been mine – you were extraordinary from the moment you stepped into the classroom. The respect that you have earned from the teachers and students in our school is something to truly be proud of – because it is the type of person that you are and have become. Your outrageous ASL talent is one piece of a truly exceptional human being.

  64. Ms.Andersen is one of the most patient and kindest teachers I’ve had. She’s so passionate about the dead community and deaf culture. Her classses don’t only learn how to sign but they learn about dead history and the hardships the dead community has experienced in years past. She’s like a mom to all of her students, she’s serious when need be but for the most part, she likes to have fun in her classroom. I feel lucky to have her as a teacher in our school let alone be my teacher.

  65. I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today without the influence of Amy Andersen. Through her passion for the Deaf community, she inspired me to want to become an interpreter and an advocate for Deaf awareness. Amy is the epitome of what a teacher should be: helpful, encouraging, thoughtful, and supportive. She has a passion for the subject she teaches and for spreading her skills in ASL to high school students. Amy is involved in the Deaf community and helps her students connect with the community as well. Without her connections, I wouldn’t have been able to work with Deaf children in high school, which changed my life. She also cares for her students more than any other teacher. It was her idea to create an anti-bullying ASL music video to promote our 2014 ASL Takes a Stand show. Amy and I collaborated on the video to spread the message of kindness and support to students (hearing and Deaf) everywhere.
    Overall, Amy deserves this award more than anyone I know. She is an incredible teacher and human being.

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