Meet the SH BSL Training Centre Team

Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Stephen Hurley, I am the founder of SH BSL. I am from the East of England, if you look at a map it’s the bump on the right hand side at the bottom, I grew up in a place called Norwich and have lived there all my life.

What is your sign name and can you explain the reasons behind it?

My sign name in BSL is “SH(hh)” this is for two reasons – one being my initials = S.H and the other being that ‘SH’ if you try verbalising it sounds like “shhhh” which I often find myself saying when students in my classes are chatting! So that is my professional sign name for teaching as well as indicating my initials, I hope that makes sense, it seems good to me! I’m quite proud of it and have had a few comments from other Deaf BSL tutors who would like an equally cool sign name too… ahah!

What have you done in your career until now?

My background, career wise, to date has been many and varied. Predominantly I have worked in Social Service settings enabling people with technology; supporting Deaf people and working in the general community in development roles requiring draft proposals, finance and so on. So, fortunately, I have much experience, from having lots of fingers in lots of pots over the years which has enabled me to be at the point I am now. I have tried to keep that short and sweet so that I can tell you more about what I am doing now! For the last 21 years I have increasingly been teaching BSL, I started small as an employee and gradually got to the point where I became my own business and set up in my own right. Now got someone working for me and he is an amazing guy.

What is your proudest achievement?

This is a really easy thing to identify. Definitely, unquestionably, and every single time, seeing one of my students progress through Level 1, then Level 2, Level 3 and further. Every single time my heart swells with pride. Looking back to the first day when they started and then comparing to where they eventually end up, well, I am filled with pride for them and also take huge satisfaction in enabling them to learn our language. Not only that, but seeing them then go on to embrace this language and make it their career path as either a Support Worker or an Interpreter, there are no words to express my pride in being part of that.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

When I was younger my dream job was being a Farmer! My dad knew about this and made a call to my auntie and arranged for me to try out at her farm. I was 17, unused to hard graft and not expecting that for THREE weeks I would be physically working so hard ALL the time. I can still say, hand on heart, that was the hardest thing I have ever done. Up at 5am each day and working until dark. That was six days a week with a rest day on Sunday. I was utterly exhausted and can only say, wow, respect to all farmers, they really know how to work.

What is your favourite BSL sign and why?

My favourite BSL sign has to be “SH(hhh)”, of course!

Who are your Deaf Role Models?

My favourite Deaf Role Model has to be a man who blazed the trail here in Norfolk. He was the first BSL tutor in the area and a truly lovely man. His name was Peter Gosse and he was someone that I followed the career of for as long as I can remember. I am not one to idolise any one person and since then there have been many Deaf people I have respected, admired and learnt from. As a young person Peter was probably the only Deaf person I was aware of, but since then I have gone on to be exposed to so many different inspiring individuals in the Deaf community and have been touched by them all in some way, either by inspiration or motivation. It would be impossible to name them all, but they are all out there somewhere.

Anything we need to know about you?

Random facts about me?! Well, I am tall, very tall and I have a good sense of humour for sure!

Any hidden talents that no one knows of?

As for hidden talents, well I would say that I am a very good judge of character and know how to draw out the best in people, especially in a classroom environment, I can identify strengths and help students to build on those confidently. I like that about myself. I would say I am a very motivational and supportive person. Often I see people attending classes who are literally shaking in their boots about learning a new language that is out of their comfort zone, or students at home linking in over Zoom, who need reassurance and I do seem to have a canny ability to help them relax into it and feel at home in their learning.

My favourite thing about being a BSL teacher?

Meeting someone who is really wanting to learn, who is really keen, seeing their eyes light up as they start. Helping someone who has been to the school of hard knocks, found education hard, maybe had bad experiences in the past and supporting them to a stage where they are confident and happy in their learning… THAT lights me up. That mutual enjoyment and relaxing into what they are doing. Often these students get more than just a new skill, they find new friends and go home smiling every time. Now that is a wonderful thing.

What is one thing you would have changed to make life better for Deaf People?

Get rid of all the barriers; make EVERYTHING accessible and equal; have interpreters available everywhere and any time and make information of all sorts accessible. Not only would this benefit Deaf people it would benefit everyone so they all had access to each others’ rich diversity.

Any last words for people thinking about learning British Sign Language?

Yes, I would always say, if you haven’t already – come and try learning some BSL. Been sitting on the fence?? Unsure? C’mon, give it a go, join one of my classes and see for yourself. You won’t regret experiencing this beautiful, visual, language and some of our bountiful heritage and culture.

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