Learning another language can be challenging, but the high-energy, inclusive and interactive nature of Krystle Conrad’s teaching style has benefited many students learning American Sign Language (ASL). She is this year’s Adjunct Professor of the Year.

Conrad, Instructor, teaches ASL 101 and 102, which are introductory classes. She’s been an adjunct at Moraine Valley since 2015 while working at her full-time gig as a job specialist at Hinsdale South High School, where they have a large deaf program.

Being deaf herself since age 6, Conrad makes sure her students arrange their desks in a “U” formation so everyone can see each other, particularly the instructor.

“Sometimes it’s their first time learning a language, and it’s a challenge, but I challenge them to communicate with me. It gives them exposure [to the deaf community] at the same time,” she said.

Conrad makes sure students are working with each other to learn sign language, and they’re also comfortable in the classroom. If she gives visual examples on a PowerPoint, she’ll have a diverse representation of people. She encourages and attends to her students’ needs, and they notice.

“Her class was very involved, and she is the reason I retained so much information and knowledge. Her high energy, positive attitude and words of encouragement helped deliver the material in a sensible way. If a student was unsure of something, she would take the time to let them ask questions. She would never make any student feel ashamed for being wrong or not understanding,” said one of her nominators. “She also would give us real-life examples that we, as hearing students going out into the deaf community, may commonly run into and explain how it relates to what is being taught.”

Another nominator said, “She embodies everything a teacher should be. She is kind, engaging, patient, professional and, most importantly, demonstrates a positive attitude that is infectious to her students. She makes sure we all know there is nothing we can’t accomplish. She motivates us every class period by starting off with some kind of game that gets us up and signing. She has attended various events put on by the Moraine Valley ASL Club and encourages us to be active in the deaf community as a way to put into action the skills we are learning. Krystle is truly a gifted teacher, and Moraine Valley is beyond lucky to have her as faculty.”

Conrad cares about her students and thoroughly enjoys teaching this subject. “My class becomes a family. The best part of teaching is seeing how they’ve done learning new materials, incorporating the language, having discussions with students. I love teaching about deaf culture,” she said.

Conrad doled credit on her students and fellow faculty for supporting each other and how they’ve helped her in winning this accolade.

“It’s such an honor to earn this award. It means I’ve been working hard, and people care about my teaching. It feels good,” she said. “I want to thank everyone — students and the department. I’m a better teacher now because of them.”