At dance team practice at Bryan Station Middle School, when coach Jeannette Jackson gives an instruction, sixth-grader Bailey Locker feels the vibration of the music and glances at Garnet Meeks, who interprets for her in sign language.
With a bit of assistance from the intrepreter and her teammates, Bailey, who was born deaf, is learning dance moves. She functions like any other dancer, according to Jackson, dance team coach and para-educator.
“It’s easy to dance,” Bailey said in an interview with the Herald-Leader facilitated by the interpreter. If the music “is really loud I can feel the vibration in the floor.”
“She knows what I expect and how I want it and what she needs to do,” Jackson said. “She does it like any other girl. It’s easy with her. She’s got the gift.”
During routines, “I try to stay where Bailey can see me,” said Meeks, who often accompanies Bailey throughout her school day. Meeks has interpreted for deaf students in Fayette County Public Schools for 18 years. She is one of two female interpreters who work with Bailey .
Bryan Station Middle is home to one of the district’s deaf and hard-of-hearing clusters, which serves 12 students. There are also deaf and hearing-impaired students on the basketball and football teams and in the orchestra, said principal Lester Diaz. Bailey is one of six who get help from an interpreter.
Fayette County has three clusters of teachers and interpreters for students who are deaf or hard of hearing: at Clays Mill Elementary School, Bryan Station Middle and Henry Clay High School. Students can also choose to stay at their assigned schools, according to the district website.
Meeks said she is teaching Bailey’s team members sign language, and they also give her physical cues.
“I try to learn for myself,” Bailey said. “The people on the dance team help me a lot.”
“Once you show Bailey something twice, Bailey’s got it,” Jackson said.
Bailey, 13, is the first deaf student that Jackson has coached.
Jackson said when a teacher approached her and said Bailey was going to try out, she thought, “What do I need to do to prepare for her?”
But, said Jackson, “I was just amazed when I saw her. She already had the moves.”
“I don’t know how she can do it without hearing.”
Bailey said she videotapes the dance routines on her tablet and practices on her own every night.
“I learn the moves from the video,” Bailey said.
“You can tell that she practices,” said Jackson. Out of 18 team members, “Bailey is one of my top 12,” she said.
Bailey said she has been getting dancing instruction since she was 6. She is partial to hip hop.
Her great-grandmother Sharon Dunn said she and Bailey’s great-grandfather Doug Dunn have encouraged Bailey since she first began dancing as part of gym class at William Wells Brown Elementary School and then in a program at Urban County Parks and Recreation.
“Being on the dance team has encouraged her and built up her confidence that she can do pretty much whatever she puts her mind to,” Sharon Dunn said.
“I want to dance in high school,” Bailey said.
Dunn said Jackson encourages Bailey to keep her grades up; academics come first.
In all, there are three interpreters at Bryan Station Middle who help make it possible for students to participate in extra curricular activities, the principal said.
“These folks are giving up a lot of their personal time to be with the students who need these services,” Diaz said. “It’s really a unique environment.”