Category Archives: Faculty

Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching: Christopher Kurz

Providing experiential learning opportunities and establishing strong connections with his students are two contributors to Christopher Kurz’s success in the classroom. His triumphs are the result of thought-provoking and practical applications of his lessons and his ability to adapt his teaching style and philosophy to meet the changing needs of his diverse students.

Kurz, an associate professor in NTID’s secondary education of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing master’s program and a 1995 graduate of RIT’s applied mathematics program in the College of Science, is one of this year’s recipients of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching. Kurz helps develop the talents of his students who will soon re-enter classrooms around the world in a different capacity — as educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing secondary students.

“My inspiration comes from seeing my students improve their skills, grow, become professionals,” he said. “I have also learned to connect deeper with my students and learn more about where they come from, what they bring to the table. My students and I — we have a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Kurz is also known for making his lessons come alive. For several years, he has taught deaf history courses in which students examine artifacts like school diaries written by deaf students in the 19th century, war-era dollar bills that were published by a school for the deaf during wartime, and antiquated instructional materials to catch a glimpse into what life was like for deaf people over the past 400 years. He also enlists a technique called “Theatre in Education,” where actors dressed as Edward Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell and other famous pioneers in deaf history entertain and educate through debates designed to spark conversations about deaf life and issues in deaf education from decades past. Kurz’s students also develop partnerships and curricular and historical research projects alongside Rochester School for the Deaf that, accordingly to Kurz, is rich in local deaf history.

“I want to be a driving force in raising the bar for students in the field of deaf education,” he added. “I’m a product of deaf education, so it’s important for me to be a catalyst in educating and preparing the next generation of teachers of the deaf.”

RIT/NTID Professor Named to Distinguished Fulbright Specialist Roster

Adding to his remarkable achievements in and out of the classroom, Todd Pagano, associate professor of chemistry and director of the Laboratory Science Technology program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, has been named to the Fulbright Specialist Program. The program, which provides Fulbright Specialists two- to six-week grants, promotes linkages between U.S. scholars and professionals in select disciplines and their counterparts at host institutions in more than 140 countries around the world. Pagano is still waiting for word on where he might be placed.

“The globalization of science is upon us,” said Pagano in his Fulbright application. “Today, scientists and corporations work across borders and diverse cultures. U.S. professors are increasingly involved with students from diverse cultures, while attempting to teach all students to be ‘global citizens.’ My goal is to develop ways to improve the teaching of chemistry while substantially broadening opportunities in the field for traditionally underserved students in an effort to narrow gaps in the attainment of education and employment in the field. I would like to work with host institutions to develop chemistry curricula and establish sustainable programs, interventions, and research opportunities for disadvantaged students.”

At NTID, Pagano developed the Laboratory Science Technology program, the world’s only chemical technology program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In 2012, he was named U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He has also received the American Chemical Society Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences, sponsored by The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and the Stanley Israel Medal for Diversity in Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. He is an American Chemical Society Fellow and was named to Rochester Business Journal’s ‘Forty Under 40’ list of professionals who have made significant community contributions. He has also earned two faculty humanitarian awards as well as RIT’s Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“As a scientist, my hypothesis is that my interactions abroad would uncover fundamental differences in approaches to serving students in educational science programs, but also deep-rooted similarities in the innate care and desire for populations to help those who are less fortunate,” added Pagano. “I am excited about the prospect of extending my quest to broaden educational and research opportunities for underserved students overseas, and believe the Fulbright Specialist program is the ideal vehicle to do so.”

All His World’s a Stage

For nearly 20 years, Joe Hamilton has been behind the scenes of more than 100 productions at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. But he’s not only behind the scenes, he and his theater practicum students have also designed and constructed those scenes.

Each year, 300 to 600 RIT/NTID students are involved in NTID Performing Arts, whether they perform, design and construct sets, paint, learn about lighting, apply theatrical make-up or work in the costume shop. About 20 or 30 students each semester work with Hamilton, spending much of their time measuring, hammering, drilling or painting in a workshop behind the Robert F. Panara Theatre.

Hamilton, a fourth-generation deaf individual who graduated from RIT/NTID in 1990 with a degree in manufacturing process, started work at NTID in 1996. As stage manager, he fulfills all technical director duties for NTID’s cultural and creative studies program, and this fall completed work on his 100th production. He keeps a log of notes from each production in his office, and when he can, he’ll slip the number of his current production into the set, such as “102” as the house number on a set during the NTID Holiday Show.

“I am a handyman. I enjoy building anything from blueprints,” Hamilton said. “I enjoy working with the students, and working with my hands, combining creativity, artistry and mechanics.”

Two of his most challenging productions were Peter Pan in 2002, in which characters had to go airborne, and The Diary of Anne Frank in 2001, where a 20-by-20-foot window was built and lifted in the air to reveal the characters who appeared to be hiding in a basement.

“He’s always finding a new solution and solving problems,” said Aaron Kelstone, program director for NTID’s Performing Arts. “I’m surprised how patient he is. He’s got 20 to 30 people all day around him asking him what’s next, and he has to make sure they aren’t getting hurt and aren’t doing something wrong.”

Chris Brucker, an architecture major from Schenectady, N.Y., joined Hamilton’s classes because he loved woodshop in high school.

“He is always very patient when it comes to teaching students who are inexperienced in woodshop,” Brucker said. “He always uses visual teaching instead of giving a lecture since the majority of deaf students depend on visual learning, so students always learn something new every day.”

Brucker said he learned skills in Hamilton’s shop that he’ll use after college. “I can remodel a house, fix electrical things, even build an entire house, and I owe it all to technical theater.”

Hamilton says making a difference in his students’ lives and seeing their work come to life on the stage is his main reward.

“I love working here,” Hamilton said. “It’s a very challenging job that keeps me going.”

Web extra

For a closer look at Joe Hamilton’s work, go to bit.ly/NTIDBackStage.

ASL Version of ‘Let It Go’ Featuring RIT/NTID Alumni Released

A music video of the popular “Let It Go” song, from the Disney movie Frozen, performed in American Sign Language with an all-deaf cast and crew has generated more than 43,000 views since its release less than 24 hours ago.

It stars two graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf whose prior performances have been viewed by millions.

Amber Zion, ’04, an actress who signed the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl, and Jason Listman, ’07 and ’09, an assistant professor who teaches American Sign Language to interpreting students at NTID, star in the video, which was directed by Jules Dameron.

“When I saw it for the first time, I was speechless and my jaw dropped the whole time,” Zion said. “It was beyond my expectations.”

The video, which RIT/NTID helped sponsor, involves other graduates of the university, including Jess Thurber, ’06, assistant producer; Ruan du Plessis, ’11, director of photography; and Erik Call, ’06, who worked behind the scenes.

The video is on the YouTube page of the Deaf Professional Arts Network, or D-PAN. The network was created by Sean Forbes, a 2008 RIT/NTID Applied Arts and Sciences graduate who performs in live shows and an array of music videos.

 “We are proud of the role a number of our talented alumni are playing in the rise in popularity of music videos in sign language,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “And we are pleased to support this video as a way to ensure that all audiences—deaf and hearing—get to enjoy the richness and beauty of signed expression.”

Disney authorized use of the song for the video, which was filmed over three days in September in Paso Robles, Calif., a community two hours north of Los Angeles.

“It was a phenomenal experience to work with a deaf crew, especially with Amber and Jules,” Listman said. “I think the song is perfect because it represents the value of social justice, the concept that everyone deserves equal opportunities in this society and can challenge the status quo. We should embrace ourselves and be true to ourselves. Let it go! This applies to a lot of deaf people with multiple identities, too.”

“Because the song has metaphors, it is nice to open your mind and translate that into ASL,” said Zion. “I love the challenges, to put all of my hard work into it.”

She said Disney released dozens of versions of “Let It Go” in various languages. “They haven’t done one in ASL. I really hope they would add this music video into their list.”

Forbes said he is happy to add the “Let It Go” video to his website. “I’ve always admired Jason and Amber’s work, shown their videos on D-PAN and am glad to see them working together on this project.”

The video is the latest of a series of music videos performed in sign language and posted on YouTube. The technology didn’t exist when Listman was growing up. He discovered music when he was 13, and has since posted five ASL music videos, generating more than 1 million views cumulatively. He says he’s happy there is an outlet that allows him to share his struggles and joys through translating songs into ASL, show others that songs can be translated in sign language and show hearing people that deaf people should be in the spotlight when it comes to signing songs in ASL.

“I hope this music video, with a deaf cast and crew, will open everyone’s mind to see that we can make this happen,” Zion said. “I also hope that this kind of exposure will help all other deaf performers/crews to get recognized.”

 “It makes me feel good,” Listman said. “I’m excited to know I inspire a lot of people out there, especially in the deaf community.”

View the video at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=g1HVoEW5s50

RIT/NTID-sponsored ASL Version of ‘Let It Go’ Featuring Alumni Released on Sunday

Two graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf whose performances have been viewed by millions will star in an American Sign Language music video of the popular “Let It Go” song, from the Disney movie Frozen.

The video will be released Sunday, two days after an invitation-only screening and networking party Friday at the Complete Actors Place in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Starring in the video are Amber Zion, ’04, an actress who signed the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl, and Jason Listman ’07,’09, an assistant professor who teaches American Sign Language to interpreting students at NTID. The video had an all-deaf crew, including noted film director Jules Dameron.

Other RIT/NTID graduates involved include Jess Thurber ’06, assistant producer; Ruan du Plessis ’11, director of photography; and Erik Call ’06, who worked behind the scenes.

The video is expected to be released at 11 a.m. (EST) Sunday on the YouTube page of the Deaf Professional Arts Network, or D-PAN. The network was created by Sean Forbes, a 2008 RIT/NTID Applied Arts and Sciences graduate who performs in live shows and an array of music videos.

“The rise in popularity of music videos in sign language is due in large measure to people like Jules, and RIT/NTID alumni Sean Forbes, Amber, Jason and all those who worked on this video,” said NTID President Gerry Buckley. “We are proud to help sponsor this video as a way to ensure that all audiences—deaf and hearing—get to enjoy the richness and beauty of signed expression.”

The video, which is co-sponsored by RIT/NTID and was approved by Disney, was filmed in September over three days in Paso Robles, Calif., a community two hours north of Los Angeles.

“It was a phenomenal experience to work with a deaf crew, especially with Amber and Jules,” Listman said. “I think the song is perfect because it represents the value of social justice, the concept that everyone deserves equal opportunities in this society and challenge the status quo. We should embrace ourselves and be true to ourselves. Let it go! This applies to a lot of deaf people with multiple identities too.”

“Because the song has metaphors, it is nice to open your mind and translate that into ASL,” said Zion. “I love the challenges, to put all of my hard work into it.”

She said Disney released 25 versions of “Let It Go” in various languages. “They haven’t done one in ASL. I really hope they would add this music video into their list.”

Forbes said he is happy to add the “Let It Go” video to his website. “I’ve always admired Jason and Amber’s work, shown their videos on D-PAN and am glad to see them working together on this project.”

The video is the latest of a series of music videos performed in sign language and posted on YouTube. The technology didn’t exist when Listman was growing up. He discovered music when he was 13, and has since posted five ASL music videos, generating more than 1 million views cumulatively. He says he’s happy there is an outlet that allows him to share his struggles and joys through translating songs into ASL, show others that songs can be translated in sign language and show hearing people that deaf people should be in the spotlight when it comes to signing songs in ASL.

“It makes me feel good,” Listman said. “I’m excited to know I inspire a lot of people out there, especially in the deaf community.”

Faculty Spotlight: Annemarie Ross

Annemarie RossAnnemarie Ross, RIT/NTID alumna and assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Math, received the Environmental Merit Award from the American Chemical Society after presenting her scholarship related to environmental chemistry at the national conference of the ACS in Indianapolis.The Merit Award recognizes efforts by individuals who assist the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry help the community better understand and protect the environment. Read more here >>