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Woman Warrior – Shira Fogel

Womxn Warrior Series

Tiny Talkers

Did you study a foreign language in elementary and/or middle school?

Most of us probably at least studied a foreign language in high school, right?

As for me, in eighth grade, my school started teaching us sign language as our foreign language. I found it to be incredibly interesting and our whole class had a lot of fun with it. For this reason it holds a special place in my heart. 

Fast forward about ten years to when my sister began having babies and taught them sign language. For simple words like: hungry, more, please, thank you, etc. Every time I visited, I felt impressed by how many signs my niece and nephews knew and we all loved how much it helped them communicate what they needed. 

Recently, I came across a flyer for Tiny Talkers – baby sign language classes. I figured it’d be fun to meet whoever was behind this. And I’m so glad I emailed Shira. After getting to know her better over a cup of tea, I knew she’d be perfect for my Women Warrior blog series. 

Upon meeting Shira, I was immediately struck by her warm and friendly presence. And then I got to actually see one of her classes. I absolutely LOVED watching her interact with the little ones in her Sign, Sing, and Play class. She was so good with all of them and sure made the class a ton of fun, not only for the kids but for the parents too! I mean, I had a blast taking photos of the class and enjoyed seeing Shira in her element. 

Honestly, I didn’t know that anyone offered classes specific to Baby Sign Language. But, after observing Shira’s class I can 100% see the benefits of a class specific to baby sign language. These littles knew so many signs – so cool to witness! Check out the photos below to see some of what a Tiny Talkers class looks like and read the rest of Shira’s journey below. I’m so excited to introduce you to this Warrior Woman – Shira Fogel of Tiny Talkers. 

 

Shira’s Roots

Shira was born and raised in St. Louis, another midwestern girl – like myself. And made the trek out to the PNW about twenty years ago. She lives here with her husband and their two children. Like many of the people I interact with out here, their favorite family activity is exploring Oregon’s great outdoors! And one of Shira’s other favorite activities is playing laser tag! According to her, she REALLY gets into it when they get out there to play! 

 

Shira’s Sign Language Journey

Although, Shira didn’t start her business until after her daughter was born over fifteen years ago. She’s always been fascinated by sign language. She told me that when she was little and at a public event with her mom, she would beg to sit behind the section where the interpreter was. Which led her to take a couple of classes in college to learn more. 

Once her daughter was born, she heard that sign language was beneficial to children, but there weren’t many resources available to learn it easily. So, she dug into her old books to teach herself sign language again. And her daughter really took to it. In fact, her daughter knew over 100 signs by the time she was twelve months old! 

Shira remembers being at the park where strangers would come up to her and ask her questions about her daughter being deaf. She politely explained to them that her daughter wasn’t deaf. Then went on to explain the benefits of signing over and over again. People amazed as they got to watch this little twelve month old sign to her mom that ‘she was done with the swing but wanted more slide. And she was also thirsty.’

In their house, the crying that happened wasn’t from communication breakdowns, there WAS crying based on, ‘no, you can’t have that’ but not from the inability to communicate. According to Shira, one of the biggest sources of crying, for the most part, for babies between the ages of zero and three is that you and they just can’t understand each other. The terrible twos become a lot less terrible when your baby can communicate more easily to you. 

 

Tiny Talkers

At the park, Shira interacted with so many other parents who wanted to learn from her. She understood how frustrating the parents were, as she witnessed kids babbling and complaining. And parents not able to help them as they tried to guess, ‘are you cold, hungry, thirsty, etc.’ So, she began teaching other parents signs here and there at the park. 

Then her son came along, and her passion for sign language became even more pronounced as she witnessed her daughter sign with him. She became the big sister who could translate what her brother wanted when people like grandma or other family members visited. This experience led Shira to start Tiny Talkers to teach others how to help their children communicate from an earlier age. 

Shira has always known she wanted to leave the world a better place than how she found it and Tiny Talkers gives her the ability to do that. She has taught baby sign language for over ten years now and says that every single week she hears a new story from a parent like, ‘you won’t believe what they (their child) did this week!’ Emails come in telling her how her classes have, ‘changed me as a parent.’ 

I actually got to witness some of these proud parent moments when I photographed Shira’s Sign, Sing, and Play class. One mother told Shira all about her sons progress and how many advancements he had made that week alone – I loved watching her enthusiasm as she shared her story with Shira.

 

Tiny Talkers Classes

Tiny Talkers offers three classes to teach your little one sign language. Shira prefers people start with her Baby Signing 101 workshop, which is for parents and/or caregivers. It’s a one time, two hour class, for just adults. You learn about the history of how your baby develops, how their brain develops and the benefits of sign language. And of course, you get to learn some signs, but more than that Shira teaches you using concrete examples of how to use the signs to teach your child. So instead of just reading signs out of a book, you actually get a visual, hands-on learning experience. 

The second class offered is the Sign, Sing, & Play class, which is the class I got to witness and photograph – again photos are below! This class is for ages nine months and up. These are five week sessions specifically for babies and toddlers and their caregivers. And the title of the class describes it perfectly, they sign, sing, and they definitely get to play as well! 

Lastly, Tiny Talkers offers a music movement and signing class for preschoolers ages two to five. This class was born out of a lot of loving parents who felt like they aged out of the sign, sing, and play class. But they still wanted to learn from Shira. So she created a class specifically for preschoolers. This class is the only one that is a drop-in class because Shira understands that preschoolers are on their own agenda. 😉

 

How to Find Tiny Talkers

You can find out more on the Tiny Talkers Website

Or follow along on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest

 

I get really excited anytime a new video from Shira pops up into my Instagram feed. The other day, she was teaching some signs for Halloween! So fun! 

I love how Shira created this amazing business, doing something she loves, to serve our community based on an unmet need. After witnessing her class, I would truly say she is doing her part to make our world a better place. And she’s been doing this for over ten years now all while raising her two children. This woman is a serious warrior and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about her and her classes. Enjoy the photos below of Shira in her element and keep scrolling to the bottom to learn about more women warriors in our community!

 

Sign Language Teacher holding up the love sign

Sign Language teacher teaching class and a headshot of her against a beige background

Sign language teacher with a spider on her head signing the sign for spider

Baby Sign Language class

Babies playing with music egg rattles

Sign language teacher interacting with her young students

Baby Sign Language Class

Baby Sign language class

Sign Language Teacher in peach shirt

 

 

Want to read about more Women Warriors in our community? Check out these amazing women as well!

Corinne LeBlanc of Portland Pediatric Acupuncture

Ruth Braunhuber of FIT4MOM SE Portland/Happy Valley

Olivia Spitzer of Doula Olivia

Danielle McCary of Laurelhurst Chiropractic

  1. Julie Behm says:

    Hi love this story and wow wish I could sign up❤️ What a Wonderful thing to teach 💕

    • Ashlie Behm says:

      Her class is so amazing – informative and fun! I’m so thankful something like this exists in our community!

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