Mick Posner, who teaches American Sign Language at West Hartford’s Conard and Hall High Schools, is featured with his family in a pilot of series being pitched to the A&E network that will be aired on Wednesday, Sept. 12.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford teacher Mick Posner is deaf, and has been since birth, and on Wednesday night he and his family will give the world a glimpse into their lives in the pilot for an A&E documentary series “Born This Way Presents: Deaf Out Loud.”
Posner lives in Plainville with his wife, Rachel, and their two children, Faith (9, fourth grade) and Henry (7, second grade). The show focuses on the Posner family as well as two Texas families, and their unique experiences being deaf.
Everyone has a unique set of circumstances, and the documentary explores how the families communicate among themselves and with their children and others, their challenges, and the myths about being deaf in what is largely a hearing world.
While Mick Posner, who grew up in a small town on Long Island named Coram, was born deaf and learned to communicate through American Sign Language (ASL) early on, Rachel Posner learned to speak and picked up ASL in her teens. Henry is deaf, while Faith is hard-of-hearing. All four wear hearing aids, read lips, speak, and sign.
Mick is now in his third year teaching ASL at West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools. His class is very popular, and said he currently has about 120 students split between the two schools. There’s enough of a demand that West Hartford Public Schools also employs another ASL teacher, who works part-time and teaches about 50 students.
Mick is a graduate of Longwood High School in Middle Island, NY, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He also has a master’s from Central Connecticut State University.
“The funny thing about being an ASL teacher was that I never once thought about it until after college,” Mick said. “There was an opportunity to teach community sign language classes at the American School for the Deaf some 13, 14 years ago, and I decided to sign up to make extra money because that time my wife and I were looking to buy a house.”
It was a great experience, he said, and his students encouraged him to continue teaching ASL. “From there, I started teaching at Manchester Community College – I just entered my 10th year there this semester – and concurrently, I teach at West Hartford Public Schools full time now.”
“Deaf Out Loud” is being produced by Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin, who is also deaf. Mick said that the producers found the family through Rachel’s Facebook page (she’s active on social media, and in addition to teaching ASL at Silas Deane Middle School and Naugatuck Community College, works with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence).
“From there we went through the casting process,” said Mick. “We’re very excited about being one of the three families featured on the show.”
The Posner’s portion of the show (see snippet below) was mostly filmed in Connecticut, on and off over the course of several months, although some interviews were shot in the studio in Los Angeles. Some of the footage was shot at Conard.
“I know people will be surprised at this but it felt normal to have cameras around and for most of the time, we were pretty much ourselves,” Mick said. “It’s not that we were primed for Hollywood but we worked with such an amazing, experienced production team at Bunim-Murray, and the cameramen were professionals. They knew how to make the process smooth.”
The entire family was “all hands on deck” working with the production team, Mick said. “This was something we believed in and saw the value in getting the stories out to audiences.”
While the A&E team was skeptical about the documentary, the original trailer (see YouTube version below) now has more than 3 million views and is the most-watched in A&E’s history. On Monday, New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons named the documentary one of the “Three Things to Watch This Week,” noting that the “profiled families are incredibly compelling, thoughtful and telegenic. … The biggest takeaway here is just how much ignorance and discrimination deaf and hard-of-hearing people still come up against.”
The Posners have received emails from people all over the world, sharing their own stories.
“The goal of the show is to show how unique the deaf community can be. One of the strongest ways to portray that is through raising families because it involves so many dynamics, challenges – communication, etc. – and triumphs, along with the importance of advocating for what is best for our children in terms of language and education,” Mick said. “There’s no right or wrong way as long as it works best for your child.”
There’s a strong message to be shared, and the Posners hope as many people as possible will watch the pilot, and convince A&E to pick up the series.
“Born This Way Presents: Deaf Out Loud” premieres at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, on A&E.
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