By Teresa Varley
Tight end Matt Spaeth is a soft-spoken, quiet guy, but he his recent actions speak volumes about the type of person he is.
Spaeth has made several visits to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, most recently learning sign language so that he can communicate with the hearing impaired.
"I have always had an interest in it," said Spaeth. "I never took it as a class. In college I had teammates that took it as a second language. On away trips I had teammates that would teach me it on the plane."
Spaeth is used to a lot of information coming at him fast and furious in offensive meetings when the game-plan is installed, but it was a whole different story when he got his first signing lesson.
"It's amazing how fast they do it," said Spaeth. "It's new to me, but it seems like they are going a million miles an hour. One of the first things they taught me to sign was can you repeat it slower. They have to really go slow for me. For my first time I thought it went well. I picked it up fast."
His first lesson included most of the basics, learning the alphabet, numbers and normal greetings such as what is your name and how are you doing. He also learned a few things that the kids in the class thought might benefit a football player.
"They taught me football stuff," said Spaeth. "One of the things they taught me to sign was, 'You're blind ref.' There were a few other things I shouldn't say but are funny. They showed me how to say hi to them if the camera was on me.
"I was recently at a baseball game and I saw some people signing. I wish I knew more so I could have gone over there and tried talking to them. I didn't remember enough."
He is hoping that next time he sees someone signing he will be able to communicate with them. He plans on being a regular visitor to the school, learning as much as he can.
"It was a very enjoyable experience," said Spaeth. "It was a small group I worked with. At first everyone was a little shy. But by the end of the time I was there we were having a good time. They were saying some funny things that had to be translated for me and it was fun."
The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf is a non-profit school with the highest academic expectations. Founded in 1869, WPSD is the provider of quality educational services and a complete extracurricular program to deaf and hard-of-hearing children from birth through Grade 12. Presently serving nearly 250 students from 101 school districts and 31 counties, WPSD is the largest comprehensive center for deaf education in Pennsylvania. WPSD offers an all inclusive communication/language environment. Communication needs are met on an individual basis with emphasis on the development of both English and American Sign Language.