Ask any Whanganui sign language user who their teacher was and they are most likely to say "Shona Beamsley".
When asked how many people she has taught Beamsley responds that there have been "Heaps".
New Zealand Sign Language Week 2020 runs from September 21 to 27 to coincide with International Week of the Deaf and the United Nations International Day of Sign Languages held on September 23.
Beamsley teaches New Zealand Sign Language at UCOL, Wanganui Hearing Association and at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa's raranga (flax weaving) classes.
The wānanga classes, she explains, are a reciprocal agreement with tutor Trina Taurua where she gets to learn flax weaving in exchange for teaching sign language.
"I don't know how to sign in te reo but I teach the signs for the English words and Trina translates them," she said.
Tracey Jones learned sign language from Beamsley a decade ago and she now assists others to learn as the education officer with Wanganui Hearing Association.
"I am not fluent at signing myself but thanks to Shona I can understand the signs and assist the learners in her classes with translation," Jones said.
Beamsley was born completely deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other and did not learn sign language herself until adulthood.
She attended the Deaf School at St Dominics in Palmerston North as a boarder where she was not taught to sign.
"There was no signing, only spoken English, yes definitely more oral talking growing up."
As a teenager, she met other deaf people who communicated with sign language and they encouraged her to enrol for a Deaf Studies course in Wellington where she learned to sign and also discovered her true identity.
She believes everyone should learn to sign and New Zealand Sign Language Week is a good time to share and celebrate the language.
Whanganui Hearing Association board member Alex Goodwin said people who wish to learn can use the New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary online which has illustrations and videos for each sign.
"Shona devised the sign for Whanganui," she said. "It could be a good one for people to start with."
Goodwin also learned sign language from Beamsley and she has been the primary driver for a fundraising campaign to pay for a cochlear implant operation for Beamsley.
The operation will cost from $45,000 to $50,000. A mystery donor gave $10,000 to the fund in May but there's still a way to go. A planned art auction that was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions has been rescheduled and will take place at the Whanganui Community Arts Centre on November 1.