Balance Toward Language Mastery


  • Virginia R. Heslinga Anna Maria College



Accommodations, Autonomy, Diversity, Inclusion, Language, Neuroscience, Signing, Scaffolding.


Problems in attaining language mastery with students from diverse language backgrounds and levels of ability confront educators around the world. Experiments, research, and experience see positive effects of adding sign language in communication methods to pre-school and K-12 education. Augmentative, alternative, interactive, accommodating, and enriching strategies using sign language aid learners in balancing the skills needed to mastery of one language or multiple languages. Theories of learning that embrace play, drama, motion, repetition, socializing, and self-efficacy connect to the options for using sign language with learners in inclusive and mainstream classes. The methodical use of sign language by this researcher-educator over two and a half decades showed signing does build thinking skills, add enjoyment, stimulate communication, expand comprehension, increase vocabulary acquisition, encourage collaboration, and helps build appreciation for cultural diversity.

Author Biography

  • Virginia R. Heslinga, Anna Maria College

    Vrginia Heslinga, Ed. D., Associate Professor of  Humanities and Education, has taught since graduating with a language arts education degree from Marshall University, Huntington, WVA. She went on to earn a Masters degree in education from Widener, in Chester, PA, and completed her doctorate in education through the University of Phoenix, AZ in 2010. Her career has included years in elementary, middle, high school, college, and graduate teaching programs, public, private, charter, alternative, and religious schools. Since 2004, volunteering to provide in-service and professional training for teachers of English in remote regions around the world during her summers has heightened Virginia’s appreciation of cross cultural teaching and learning.

         Currently, she continues her work in humanities and education at Anna Maria College, in Paxton, MA.  Dr. Heslinga's research investigates pedagogical theories in action in a variety of cultures, relational practices in school systems, online learning,individualizing curriculum, the use of motion and symbols to promote language learning, and introducing creative thinking to curriculum and systems heavily weighted toward memorizing and testing. 

        Dr. Heslinga is a member of NCTE, and has received awards for Living the Mission (from Anna Maria College), Teacher of the Year (Middle Township Schools, CMCH, NJ). Her historical novel, Wounded Dove, was published in 2008. Dr. Heslinga does presentations for community groups, schools, local, and national conferences and has publications in paper and digital journals. 



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