Susie Ovens and Lynette Pivac – both New Zealand Sign Language lecturers at the School of Language and Culture – were recognised for their impressive achievements at the recent NZ Sign Language Awards ceremony.
Susie received the NZSL Teaching Award – an accolade that speaks to her dedication and hard work towards bridging the gap between Deaf and hearing people during her 15 years at AUT.
"The NZSL Awards are really important because they recognise both the Deaf and hearing people who have worked very hard for the Deaf community and for NZSL." Susie said. "It's really nice to know that students enjoy learning NZSL in my classes, and I really love teaching them. It's very rewarding to see people go from absolute beginners to competent signers who enjoy using the language."
Susie also explained that NZSL is a valuable skill for all Kiwis.
"Many people don't learn NZSL because they think it’s only for Deaf people – but that's not the case! Anyone in a customer-facing role could have a Deaf customer come in, and if you have some basics of communicating in NZSL your Deaf customers or students will feel included."
School of Language and Culture Senior Lecturer and Researcher Lynette Pivac was also recognised at the NZSL Awards and was presented one of two Supreme Long-standing Service Awards for more than 20 years tireless work in the Deaf community and Deaf education.
"It's great when the NZSL Awards recognise everyone who has made a significant contribution – whether they are Deaf or hearing – it is a real honour. To me, it means that all of the volunteer work has not been taken for granted." Lynette said.
Lynette also spoke about being a Deaf staff member at AUT.
"I do love working here, especially because I can use NZSL with staff and students every day. In our Sign Language Section I have a lot of freedom to communicate easily in NZSL, but outside the Section there are many barriers because most people don't sign." Lynette said.
"What I enjoy about working at AUT is that I'm always learning and there are always new challenges. I'm always excited to learn about new technologies being developed."
Both Susie and Lynette are optimistic about the future of Sign Language in our country.
"It'd be great if more students and staff at AUT knew that we offer elective papers, so that they can learn to sign." Susie said.
"When you learn NZSL you learn to communicate with your hands and your eyes, in a language that has a really different grammatical structure to English. Learning it will help you understand why Deaf people who use NZSL and embrace Deaf culture don't see it as a disability."
Lynette echoed this sentiment.
"I feel very positive about the future of NZSL" Lynette said. "It's such a beautiful language and amazing culture, and we have terrific NZSL teachers, right here at AUT."
Find out more about the NZ Sign Language Awards on the Deaf Aotearoa website.