I used American Sign Language throughout my career, first while teaching Deaf students and then teaching hearing students who chose ASL as their foreign language. I have several favorite signs, but PAH! is definitely at or near the top of the list. Technically, I would translate PAH! to mean “FINALLY!” or “Success at last!”
The sign is made by raising the index finger on both hands, creating a number one. The palms are then turned to face inward, elbows resting on the hips. In a sudden movement, both palms are turned out while raising the index fingers into the air.
I first heard of this sign when students at Gallaudet University, a federally funded private university in Washington D.C. for the Deaf and hard of hearing, staged a dramatic week-long protest that gained worldwide attention. The Deaf President Now movement occurred in 1988 when Gallaudet students challenged the university’s board of directors for naming yet another hearing person president of the university, overlooking a highly qualified and wildly popular Deaf applicant, Dr. I. King Jordan. At the end of the week, the new president resigned, and Dr. Jordan became the first Deaf president of Gallaudet. During that time, I saw PAH! on buttons, as well as demonstrated live on various news reports about DPN.
Monday night, immediately following the unanimous 6-0 McAllen ISD school board vote (Trustee John Ball was absent) to cease the pursuit of a District of Innovation designation, I had a PAH! moment. Finally! Success!
After a month of researching, meeting with people, collecting documents being sent by MISD teachers and even teachers from Edinburg CISD, and witnessing an engaged McAllen community share posts on social media and encourage the dissemination of information about DOI, it was finally over.
As I and four others said during public comments at the meeting, it is now imperative for us to work together to regain trust and to rebuild relationships and a solid foundation. We saw, through our own community’s movement, just how engaged we can be. It was a difficult and sometimes painful process for everyone involved, but in the end, McAllen ISD Central Office administrators acknowledged that the advisory committee and the survey results made it clear—our community did not want the district to pursue a DOI designation. When it came time to vote, the board’s unanimous decision made it clear that they also heard us loud and clear.
I felt an overwhelming sense of peace as I left the administration building after the vote. It was, indeed, a victory, but not an in-your-face or a we-beat-you victory. Rather, this was a let’s-move-forward-together victory, a the-rebuilding-process-begins-tonight victory.
When I posted the news on Facebook after the meeting, there was an overwhelming response. While several responses were worth noting, one in particular stood out. It was from a fourth grade teacher in the district. She posted, “ ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is a progress. Working together is a success.’ Teachers, I am so proud of all of us. Our voice is our power. When we are united, that power becomes a force. This should serve as an example of that. Our board listened...I give them credit, and I look forward to a positive and cooperative process in which collaboration and decisions occur based on mutual respect. We have to understand that if we are to thrive and succeed in becoming a truly innovative district, we don't need a label; we need each other. Our parents fought alongside us. I am grateful. For the first time in my three years in this district, I feel like I was respected enough to fight for. Thank you,...from the bottom of my teaching heart,...thank you!”
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.