LIHUE — Angie Molina was 3 years old when she contracted rubella, also known as German measles, and became deaf.
But the loss of her hearing didn’t affect her vision to help others and find a way to live a normal life. When she was 12, Molina moved from Oahu to Kauai and was named the first Miss Deaf Hawaii. Even at that age, she knew what her calling was.
“When I was little, about 12 years old, that’s when I started to dream about teaching and socializing with hearing people,” Molina told The Garden Island.
Molina will teach an American Sign Language Course every Tuesday and Thursday at Kauai Community College from Feb. 7 to March 16.
“There’s so many people who have no clue about sign language when they get older. They need to take a class to learn some signs,” Molina said. “It helps them improve and communicate with people much better.”
Molina started the first American Sign Language Club at Kauai High School and went on to teach ASL at Guam Community College and Kauai Academy of Arts. Now teaching for over 25 years, Molina hopes to make a difference in the lives of Kauai’s deaf and hearing by teaching her second year at KCC.
“I’m really falling in love with teaching and helping people learn sign language. So many people on Kauai want to learn sign language to communicate with each other. There are needs for deaf people. They need sign language interpreters,” she said.
Molina also loves helping Kauai’s youth.
“I was a babysitter. I taught Pono Tokioka, Beth Tokioka’s son, when he was 11 months old and his parents didn’t know sign language at the time. So I helped teach them and Pono sign language. I taught Pono over a thousand vocabulary words. And now? He’s very successful.”
Beth Tokioka said it was a difficult time, learning that Pono was deaf when he was a year old. But she was full of praise for Molina’s skills as a teacher.
“She was a wonderful teacher and helped us ease into it,” she said. “It was a stressful time for us, and to meet someone like Angie who could really empathize with what we were going through, she became a great friend for many, many years now. We really love and appreciate her, and we’re proud of what she’s doing.”
Seeing her former students prosper in life, regardless of what field they are in, warms Molina’s heart.
“I feel so proud. I feel so proud that they can succeed in life,” she said. “They never give up, they never lose hope.”
So far, seven people have signed up for Molina’s ALS course, but she is hoping to get at least 20 students by the start of the course.