Kellie Caruso, student, becomes teacher of sign language...


May 26, 1991|By Mary Corey

Kellie Caruso, student, becomes teacher of sign language at 0) night

During the day, she's Kellie Caruso, student. But when the school bell rings, she becomes Kellie Caruso, teacher.

As a sign language instructor with the White Marsh Recreation Center, she teaches three times a week and often gives demonstrations, including one tomorrow at the White Marsh Mall at 2 p.m.

"It brings the hearing impaired and the hearing together," says Ms. Caruso, a 15-year-old honors student at Perry Hall High School. "It's a great feeling when you've taught people right, and they can go out into the world and communicate with deaf people."

Being on both sides of the school desk has given her a different perspective on how to make learning fun.

"I don't want it to be like schoolwork, so I don't give much homework," she explains.

Ms. Caruso became interested in the subject seven years ago after reading a library book about signing. From there, she took a Red Cross class and eventually convinced the rec center to let her begin a program.

The classes now have become favorites, and she works with 75 students -- ranging in age from 5 to 65.

"I'm intimidated by the adults," she confesses, "but I get over it."

What Evelyn Patterson Burrell lacks in height, she makes up for in moxie.

An author, educator and source for Tony Hiss' recent New Yorker article about Baltimore, she tucks her 4-foot-5-inch frame into a crushed velvet chair and rails against everything from race relations to homelessness to bureaucrats.

"I fight the government the way I would fight a rat," says Ms. Burrell, who lives near Woodlawn. "Nobody tells me how to do anything."

Her candor, she says, "comes from a heart that says all men are created equal." But she credits her parents (her father was a lawyer, her mother a singer) with giving her a strong faith and the courage to speak out.

During her life, she has used teaching and writing to reach people. As the first black faculty member at Hood College, she created courses in Afro-American literature and has written several collections of poetry.

After reading her work, Mr. Hiss spent an afternoon talking to Ms. Burrell and her husband, Bill, for his article.

Having retired from teaching, she's currently at work on her autobiography.

"I'm a senior citizen now," she says, "and I'm just coming into my own."

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