ASL Professor Lucy James said she first learned sign language to communicate with hearing-impaired church members.

James turned passion for sign language into career

Lucy James, professor of American Sign Language and Interpreting, is the recipient of this year’s Dr. Aileen Creighton Award for Teaching Excellence.

The award is named in honor of Dr. Aileen Creighton, dean emeritus of Art and Science. Known for her dedication to higher education and students, she stood as an inspiration for her fellow faculty. Creighton serves as the standard educators must follow to receive the award. 

Colleagues and former students wrote nomination letters in support of James, who is the 19th recipient of the award. 

Kristen Wilkerson, chair of the Human Sciences and Education Department, said James exemplifies teaching excellence.

“She is kind and patient as she works with others,” Wilkerson said. “Dr. James not only shares her professional expertise with students – she is always available to faculty as well.  She provides support to faculty with assessment, online teaching, orientation to the college, and more.”

James started learning ASL to aid in her daily life, which led her to finding a passion for the form of communication. James began working for the college in 2004 and taught ASL as part of her job.

“I began learning ASL at church to communicate with deaf church members, and then continued learning by being with deaf people who used the language,” James said. “I studied all I could to learn how to teach the language in ways that were best for adult students.”

James believes her desire to adapt and teach students differently played a part in her receiving the award.

“My teaching style has always been to figure out how best to help students gain the knowledge and skills they want or need to learn.” James said.

Even though James hasn’t been teaching in the classroom, the recent transition to remote learning still required her to advise students from home. 

“I’ve continued teaching other faculty and staff how to use the college’s assessment software, and I’ve continued advising students,” James said. “ I’ve had to figure out how to use MS Teams, and Zoom, and advise via telephone”

James said she was honored to receive such a respected award.

“I know many of the previous recipients, and to join that group makes me feel like I must have done something well in my time at Del Mar,” she said.

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