Barbara was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to hearing parents and eventually emigrated to the United States as a teenager.
She graduated from Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university for the deaf in Washington, D.C., with a double major in biology and psychology.
Barbara then attended California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles, California, and obtained her M.A. degree in educational psychology.
Upon relocating to Seattle in 1989; Barbara has offered American Sign Language (ASL) instruction at various community colleges for 23+ years.
Although retired, she continues to teach ASL informally and professionally sometimes.
Barbara was active in the Seattle Deaf community and served in several board positions with the Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services agency in the past.
She is currently in her sixth year as President of Washington State Gallaudet University Alumni Association.
Barbara is a lover of nature, wildlife and travel.
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, canning, baking, reading, crafts and puttering about in the garden.
One achievement Barbara takes pride in was working on and expanding the 2nd edition of the American Sign Language Phrase Book written by her late husband, Lou Fant.
The third edition was published in 2008.
Barbara's Teaching Style & Approach
Class format will entail lectures incorporating Power Point presentation, visual aids and props, instructor sign demonstration and modeling in a non-speaking environment since American Sign Language is a visual-gestural language rather than a spoken language.
There will be hands-on practice through teacher-student interaction and student-to-student interaction via small-group conversations as well as large-group exercises.
Videos on ASL dialogues and facial grammar may be shown on occasion.
In her classes, students learn two skills simultaneously, receptive skills i.e. taking information in through their eyes, as well as their expressive/conversational skills, which is conveying information through their hands, use of facial expressions and body language.
Barbara is committed to creating a positive and safe environment for students to learn.
She attempts to make classes “come alive” in the classroom by using humor, spontaneity and her knowledge of the subject matter to enhance student comprehension and motivation.
Barbara is open and flexible to new ideas and willing to experiment in the classroom.
She is very patient and takes pleasure in watching students grow as they begin to gain a foundation in ASL.
“Barb used humor, was very gentle and created an environment that was conducive to learning. Students were comfortable signing and asking questions. They understood the routine of the class and all of them were actively engaged in the activities. The lessons were well organized and presented. Barb did not move along until she was satisfied that everyone understood.”
“She explained lessons well. Kept respect throughout the classroom. Barbara was very direct and to the point. Never afraid to correct students or correct herself.”
“The no-voicing policy gave us a haven of quiet and concentration that we would not have gotten if there was a lot of chattering. Ms. Bernstein is unusually dedicated to introducing students not only to American Sign Language but to Deaf culture as well.”
“In every class we worked with a partner or in small groups. I liked how my teacher encouraged the class to participate. Class time was always extremely well utilized and effective in helping me learn.”