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 Signing Santa Visits Students at Davila Day School

Davila student poses with SantaThe return of a holiday tradition – an in-person visit from Santa - brought smiles to students and staff alike at Davila Day School.

And what makes the visit even more special is that Santa uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate – just like many of them do. The majority of students at Davila are Deaf or hard of hearing and use either ASL or signing with voice to communicate. 

Cheers and signs erupted as Santa entered the room, then he settled in to share a holiday message with the students. The students had a surprise of their own, too, singing and signing the song You’ve Got a Friend in Me for Santa.

Then each student received an age- and developmentally-appropriate gift from Santa, which were donated by SDCOE employees. Once all the students received their gift from Santa and posed for a picture, they counted down and opened the gifts all at once. 

They each were so happy,” said Principal Heidi Lyon. “We literally had kids pumping their fists, squealing with joy, and raising their hands in the air!”

To see a Santa that is just like them helps “open up their world” says school audiologist Dr. Amy Kalenderian, one of the staff “elves” who helped coordinate the visit.

This season, Davila collected 33 gifts and 66 books to give to students. To support the school’s efforts to increase student literacy and self-esteem, the books include one storybook with a Deaf/hard-of-hearing character and one general storybook for each student. 

The team of elves who helped coordinate the event included Kalenderian, Dianna Nathan, Jackie Korfin, and Ansley Forrestal, as well as many other staff members who assisted. 

The tradition is so well regarded, Lyon said, that she heard from the middle school teacher that works with Deaf and hard of hearing students that the former Davila students have been talking about Santa's visits and have asked if they can come back to see him.  

“The long-lasting impact of this tradition is exactly what we wanted, and it seems it has happened,” she said. “Apparently, there was quite a conversation.”

Santa’s visit last year was virtual due to the pandemic, but he was able to return this year with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.