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East County Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 7 years ago

Fourth-grader performs national anthem - in sign

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

RIVER CLUB — It’s not that 9-year-old Levi Waxler doesn’t like to speak.

It’s just he’d rather do it with his hands.

The fourth-grader at Braden River Elementary School has been learning sign language since he was just 7 years old.

“It kind of inspires me, I guess,” Levi said of sign language. “I just love it.”

Levi’s talent hit the local spotlight last weekend when he signed the national anthem at the Sarasota Polo Club’s public polo match Jan. 31. Sunday’s performance was his second at the Polo Club, but he does not expect it to be his last.

Levi’s interest in sign language was sparked three summers ago when he and his mom, Tanya, were on a plane to New York. Tanya Waxler used their time on the flight to teach her son the alphabet in sign language.

When she and Levi arrived at the hotel, they met a deaf boy who was about Levi’s age. His family was using sign language to communicate, and the Waxlers stopped by to learn how to form the few letters Tanya Waxler couldn’t remember.

Levi’s interest in learning the language was instantaneous. At first, he taught himself by looking at a book. But eventually, because of Levi’s constant desire to learn, Tanya Waxler posted an ad on for a tutor.

“My husband and I thought it would last a couple of months — kids lose interest — but (Levis’ tutor Nicole Mohler) has been here two years,” Tanya Waxler said.

Over that time, Levi has learned hundreds of words, how to use them in a sentence and how to use facial expressions and body language to convey meaning.

When it comes to speaking in sign language, Levi seems to have no reservations. He signs the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in class, talks to himself at home or to his mom while she’s on the phone and worked it into the rap song he wrote to win a student council seat. He’s even tutoring a friend at school and has stopped in Burger Kings and other establishments to “speak” with deaf families when he sees them.

“I just like to do sign language,” he said.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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