American Sign Language teacher overcomes challenges

ASL teacher Sarah Martindale has survived a lengthy battle of Breast Cancer and teaches the next generation at Miami H.S. despite being completely deaf (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, ABC 7 News is highlighting a teacher at Miami High School who has overcome two major hurdles in life. Sarah Martindale is an American Sign Language teacher who lost her hearing at the age of four due to Spinal Meningitis. In 2011, she was declared cancer free after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. In 2015, she accepted a position as an ASL teacher after Miami ISD dropped Spanish as a course.

“I really don’t feel like I have some challenges with teaching,” said Sarah Martindale, ASL teacher. “The one thing that you might consider a challenge is when I look down in the classroom and the students are still talking. I don’t know what they’re saying. I always have to be watching them and reading their lips. I see them talking I have to encourage them to sign instead of talking.”

She takes pride in challenging her students on day one of the school year.

“The first week I teach them 100 words in American Sign Language,” said Martindale. “This way we can communicate and get that going. I always encourage them to sign in my classroom all the time. They will get points off if they don’t sign.”

Right after she accepted the job, administrators with the district had to modify her room to help accommodate various special needs.

“The biggest thing we had to do was retro fit her room,” said Blair Hall, Principal at Miami H.S. “She is deaf so she can’t hear the bells ringing. We installed flashing lights so she gets a strobe light and it’s the same thing for tornado alerts and fire alerts.”

Looking to the future, Martindale wants to continue working in the education field. She says she loves teaching students another form of communication. She even taught her own kids how to use sign language.

“I loved staying at home but I was antsy,” said Martindale. “I wanted to get out and do something and I love kids. My own kids learned ASL when they were young.”

“She teaches her class and she teaches the class at a high level,” said Hall. “She serves as a class sponsor so she goes with next year’s seniors on their senior trip.”

Since starting in the fall of 2015, Martindale has taught 48 students at Miami ISD.

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