By Julianne Bohley
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD — In 1994, Sally Ann Emilius entered the Camden County College campus in an attempt to begin her career as a professor who teaches sign language and interpretation. Now in her 16th year at the college, she still finds her job extremely rewarding.

However, teaching wasn’t always the plan for Emilius. Before she started her career at the college, she worked at AT&T in relay services. It was there that Emilius, who is deaf herself, was asked to teach her co-workers sign language.

“They asked if I wanted to teach sign language to the employees. I said OK. But then I really enjoyed it,” Emilius said through an interpreter.

This inspired Emilius to go back to school and get her master’s degree. From then on, she has spent her days teaching college students sign language. One of those students is Jennifer Ruegg, a CCC student in her second year who is majoring in sign language interpretation education. Ruegg was taught by Emilius last spring.

“I learned a lot through her lessons and her stories,” said Ruegg, “She always tried to make the lessons interesting and there was a lot of work on facial expressions and non-manual signals.”

These lessons are extremely important to Emilius. She wants students to learn the language of signing as a whole. All of the work she does is worth it when she sees a student embrace and learn the language fully. However, the language isn’t the only thing that she wants students to get out of her class.

“I also want people to learn about deaf people,” Emilius said. “Deaf people aren’t all the same. They have different languages, traditions, cultures and values.”

She also tries to emphasize something else about the deaf community.

“I want them to know that deaf people don’t want to be saved. They don’t need to be helped. People misunderstand. They are just like any hearing person except the language is different.”

For students like Ruegg, the lesson really sank in.

“The class was definitely rewarding. My knowledge of the deaf community and deaf culture really expanded,” Ruegg said. “Sally Ann made students believe that they really could go far with the language that they’re learning.”

Emilius has a lot of plans for her future at Camden County College. She would love to see the sign language and interpretation program expand and bloom. She would also be happy to find a way to bring the program into some four-year schools. With all that said, however, there is one thing that Emilius definitely wants to see in her future.

“I would like to win the lottery.”

Sally Ann Emilius (left) and Jennifer Ruegg have a conversation using sign language in Emilius’ office. By Julianne Bohley, CCC Journalism Program

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