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Video: Education major spreads deaf culture across campus

Don’t know any sign language? You will after a visit from Brittney Tarr.

Tarr is co-president of the Deaf Redbirds Association, one of 20+ registered student organizations in the College of Education. Every February, Deaf Redbirds raises money by delivering “signing” Valentines to lucky recipients all across campus. But their performances are more than a fundraiser; they serve as an introduction to the deaf culture and deaf issues for people who might otherwise not cross paths with either.

Learning American Sign Language without instruction can be tricky, but when the signs are pegged to recognizable songs like “Lean on Me” or “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the light bulb goes off much easier.

“When you put it to music, people are suddenly just really enthralled,” said Tarr, a junior studying to become a deaf and hard of hearing specialist in the Department of Special Education.

Illinois State is the largest producer of special education teachers in Illinois at the bachelor level. The deaf education program is one of only three such programs in the state to offer this specialty.

All across the College of Education, students like Tarr have the opportunity to enrich their education by joining student organizations related to their majors, such as Deaf Redbirds.

“Every single semester I’m finding out about new opportunities to go tutor here, or work with these kids, or join this club,” Tarr said. “There’s more than enough to choose from.”

Learn more about Brittney in the video above.

Bob Tomaski can be reached at Ryan Denham can be reached at