Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin generously took time away from her busy filming schedule in Hollywood North for a spontaneous visit to the BC School for the Deaf in Burnaby. The American actress, who won the Academy Award in 1986, is still the only deaf performer to have won an Oscar.
Students from Grades 8 through 12 were enthralled, as the actress shared stories of her challenges, persistence and successes. Matlin took the time to deliver personal words of inspiration to each and every student. Her gift of time extended beyond deaf and hard-of-hearing students, as she visited adjoining Burnaby South’s American Sign Language classes to acknowledge the importance of community, as well as the significance of allies from her own experiences.
She toured the BC School for the Deaf (BCSD) facilities and expressed amazement at the size and learning opportunities available to deaf students in the school, as she recounted some of the challenges from her own high school days.
Matlin dropped acting in high school to focus on homework and academics. She stressed her belief that school successes will open doors to new possibilities. Matlin didn’t take up acting, again, until university. She credited her drama teacher with reconnecting her with her love of the audience and with signing.
A BSCD Grade 10 student, Madison, recounted her conversation with Matlin, “she told me to do whatever inspires me. She made me feel like I, too, can be an actor – even if some auditions don’t go my way. She encouraged me to keep practicing, develop my skills, and find my place.”
The students were so excited about Matlin’s impromptu visit that they are still talking about how her words of wisdom resonated with them, and the gratitude they feel that such a sought after actress would take the time to inspire students in Burnaby.