Little Morey Belanger has inspired her entire school to make a big change.
All the students and teachers at Dayton Consolidated School in Maine have been learning sign language to welcome the six-year-old kindergartener who happens to be deaf.
The elementary school’s hallways were lined with American Sign Language (ASL) posters for popular phrases and objects – all to welcome its first student with a loss of hearing.
Teachers told TV station WMTW that students have learned how to sign more than 20 words — including colours, letters and words.
Morey’s mother, Shannon, said the gesture has been utterly reassuring because it “makes you feel like she’s in the right place.” Belanger also told CNN she’s been blown away by the show of support.
“I absolutely feel like it makes her feel welcomed,” the mom said. “I think all the kids feel excited that they know another language and I think they think it’s fun.”
The school also installed a hearing assistive system and provided extra training for teachers to implement ASL for core subjects, as well as music and computer classes. Some teachers have even taken to watching ASL videos in their free time.
During an interview with WMTW, Educator Debby Gallant felt a “little mushy” thinking about how “phenomenal” the students have been.
Principal Kimberly Sampietro told CNN Morey’s kindergarten class has “just really embraced her. They look up to her, they want her around, and they want to partner with her.”
On a Facebook Live video, the school described how “many staff and students learning additional sign on their own.” And on reward them, the school offered the children a special Disney-themed guest on Wednesday.
“As a way of reminding our students that ASL goes beyond our walls, Cinderella paid a visit and sang us a song while using ASL,” the post read.
Morey loves art and performing so when the real-life Disney princess began performing, Morey stepped up to help with the singing and the signing.
Teacher Shannon Cavanaugh told WMTW the Disney princess visit was a “special day” for Morey and the students.
“[It’s] not only to celebrate her and all of her growth and achievement, but the school as well in how much sign language the students and the staff have learned,” Cavanaugh said.
Principal Sampietro acknowledged many students attending the rural school might not have met people with hearing impairments. But Morey has “brought a culture to our building that we didn’t have before.”