Bob Probst brings a lifelong love of teaching sign language to Loganton | News, Sports, Jobs
LOGANTON — September was Deaf Awareness Month, and while it has come to an end, the month’s mission continues — to raise awareness of the reality that not everyone communicates the same way. Yet communication is more important to human beings than almost anything else.
Inspirational speaker, Toby Robbins perhaps said it best: “Communication is power. Those who have mastered its effective use can change their own experience of the world and the experience the world has of it. All behaviors and feelings have their original roots in some form of communication.
The majority of us communicate freely every day using our hearing and then our voice. Or maybe it’s our voices and then our hearing.
We don’t even have to stop and think about it. We talk, then we hear, then we process and respond. We don’t even have to look at the person talking to us.
However, it is not like that for everyone. There are millions of Americans with some sort of hearing loss, ranging from mild difficulty to complete silence.
For those with total hearing loss, communication can be a challenge because while most deaf people know sign language, few hearing people have reciprocated.
Here in Clinton County, that’s where Bob Probst comes in. He was born deaf to hearing parents, who had the foresight to look for a way to communicate with their son.
“My parents, Thomas and Dana Probst, have heard of someone named Bea Hyde who might sign,” said Bob. “They contacted her and she taught us all ASL, or American Sign Language.”
According to the World Health Organization, there are four levels of hearing loss: mild, moderate, severe and profound.
“I am considered profoundly deaf” he explained.
The CDC defines a person with profound hearing loss as “a person who will hear no speech and only very loud sounds.”
Statistics regarding different degrees of hearing loss vary from study to study, but Jeffrey L. Bayliff, a certified hearing aid specialist at Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center on Grove Street in Lock Haven, says that, “17 million Americans have profound hearing loss and another 30 million have some other form of hearing loss.”
These numbers are expected to increase significantly over the next 40 years. Yet, the gap between Deaf and hearing cultures is still wide, and because of this, Bob would like to build a bridge between the two that everyone can walk on.
“I am involved with the Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf (PSAD) and am currently the president of the nonprofit organization,” he explained.
The PSAD enables deaf and hard of hearing people to obtain full and equal access to their civil, human and linguistic rights, through information and advocacy. They envision barrier-free environments for all deaf and hard of hearing people of all ages.
In addition to his role at PSAD, Bob has taught and advocated for the deaf community for most of his life.
“I educated families of deaf children for years. Then these families can communicate with the children,” He continued.
Bob’s father was a firefighter who died in the line of duty, so he feels a special connection to those who serve the community. In turn, it teaches them to connect with those they come into contact with at work.
“My father was Thomas Probst who was killed in 1987 when a chimney fell on him while volunteering in a fire. My twin brother is Benjy Probst – he was injured at the paper mill Hammermill in 1995 and died in Geisinger. Benjy was also a volunteer firefighter,” Bob explained. “I’ve always believed that firefighters, EMS, and police should all learn some basic sign language.”
“In the past, I taught ASL at the Lamar Fire Department and even had mock training. I hope to teach more people in all areas of EMS, medicine and law enforcement. It will be an advantage for nurses, firefighters, paramedics and various other employees to know a little sign language,” He continued.
Bob’s emphasis on the importance of EMS communication via ASL could be seen across the country this week as the Governor of Florida issued an emergency evacuation warning, due to the impending disaster of Hurricane Ian. Beside him was an interpreter vigorously explaining, through her hands and facial expressions, every word he said. That person was ASL specialist, June Ann LeFors.
Currently, Bob teaches two weekly eight-week evening classes at Sugar Valley Rural Charter School in Loganton, as part of the SVRCS Community Engagement Program.
“The courses aim to help the hearing world communicate better with the deaf and to help the deaf communicate with the hearing people”, Bob explained. “My goal is for everyone to come out with some basic ASL skills.”
Ages in Bob’s current ASL classes range from six years old to 80 years old.
“There is no real age limit for the course, and sometimes younger people learn it more easily than adults. I am happy to see young people interested in learning ASL and hope to see them become interpreters in the future. he explained.
As times have changed, with a world that is more inclusive and welcoming to all, deaf culture is often not viewed by hearing people as something that needs to be recognized and understood like other, often visible, causes. For this reason, the deaf community asks people to research the world of hearing loss, remembering that they are typical, upright, relevant and intelligent members of the world, who hold important titles in society.
Bob agrees, “We’re no different, we just can’t hear.”
For more information on how to schedule Bob to teach ASL classes to your group or organization, please contact him by emailing him at [email protected]. For updates on upcoming SVRCS Community Engagement ASL classes scheduled for Spring 2022, contact Dawn Jeffries at [email protected].