Deaf and hard of hearing students at an elementary school in Mercer County had a special virtual visit with Santa this week.

Carly Kirkman, a K-4 teacher at Winola Elementary in Viola, said kids were delighted when they discovered Santa could also communicate by American Sign Language.

“It means so much to our students to meet a Santa who uses their language,” said Kirkman. “Our students deserve access to everything, just like their hearing pees. Our kids were overjoyed to meet a Santa who is deaf himself and signs.”

Interpreter Lori Dekeyrel says Fred Fox, of Humeston, Iowa, is deaf and attends events at school for deaf children at no cost to the schools.

Dekeyrel works with students and made the connection with Fox.

“He just loves to make deaf and hard of hearing children smile at Christmastime. I got his name from a deaf friend of mine,” said Dekeyrel. “He told me the kids would love it, and I should contact him to set up a call in our classroom. His beard and hair are his and not a costume!”

The Sherrard School District houses the elementary Black Hawk Area Special Education District Deaf/Hard of Hearing class.

Along with Kirkman and Dekeyrel, the team consists of:

  • Katie Benedict, pre-kindergarten teacher
  • Shalom Warrington, interpreter
  • Ahrin Hulsing, interpreter

Students who got to meet “Signing Santa” are:

  • Chase, 3rd grade
  • Jaylin, 2nd grade
  • Lanique, preschool
  • Eli, preschool
  • Alonzo, preschool
  • Arabelle, preschool
  • Tallulah preschool