Shining Light on Woodson’s ASL Program

Zayna Shahin, Staff Writer

Photos courtesy of Zayna Shahin

 Many Woodson students are encouraged to take a language to complete their language credit. American Sign Language is just as important and interactive and useful in daily life as any other spoken language offered at Woodson. The ASL program at Woodson is unique, as it teaches students a way to communicate and raises awareness about deaf and hard of hearing students within the school. Woodson has countless unique parts of it which make it whole. One of them being it’s deaf/hoh student body. Woodson offers many courses and accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing students to make their school life as easy as possible. In addition to the courses they offer for deaf/hoh students, they offer after school ASL club and The Academic Bowl. The Academic Bowl, hosted by Gallaudet University, is a team of deaf/hoh students that attends competitions to test their knowledge in the arts, history, current events, and much more. There are a total of 80 teams, 20 in each region, and the top 4 teams go to nationals. Woodsons academic bowl team has made it up to the 4th place in nationals.

“There is no difference between my class and other classes,” says Shan Pillai, the history/social studies teacher for deaf students. “We are learning the same curriculum but the classes are smaller and just deaf/hoh students and are adjusted based on their needs.”

There is very little divide between deaf/hoh students and hearing students. The class organization and curriculum is all the same except deaf/hoh classes use interpreters and accessible learning devices.

The Woodson ASL Club, which meets after school, is offered for students who want to learn ASL on their own time. The ASL club is a safe space without grades or penalties for students who prefer that way of learning. The ASL Club is not limited to only deaf/hoh students; any student can join to learn everything ASL has to offer. 

 ASL is a detailed and intricate language that is influential to those who learn it. It consists of words not to translate what is being said, but to describe the sentence being translated. That is what makes it difficult for beginners to use and understand it and apply it to everyday life. Woodson offering these clubs and activities makes ASL accessible and gives students a chance to learn with someone beside them, like the wonderful ASL teachers who do a great job of spreading awareness and knowledge of ASL. 

Woodson’s deaf community is especially good at making ASL accessible to anyone who wants to learn/use it, which is why so many students take ASL as their language credit and later advance to making it their career.

“We do a lot of learning activities, practice, and one-one teaching for students looking for that extra help,” Lisa Goodwin, an American Sign Language teacher says. “There is a lot of teamwork” 

    The American Sign Language teachers at Woodson have done a great job at making ASL a welcoming and open learning environment for students who might want to learn for their own sake or even to pursue a career in ASL.

“The combination of my ASL teacher and my English teachers have influenced me into pursuing language in my career.” Says junior Savannah Rodgerson, a student interested in pursuing a career in ASL. “Being able to communicate with [ASL] and just having that skill is important.”

Rodgerson, a hearing student who has been taking ASL since freshman year,  has had a great experience with Woodsons ASL program and has expressed interest in The Gallaudet, a school for deaf and hard of hearing students. 

“In band, they offer interpreters and smaller classes.” says freshman Maggie Smallwood, a deaf student part of the deaf/hoh program “Woodson is definitely doing a good job with their deaf/hoh program compared to other schools.” 

When multiple students were interviewed, they all said the same thing: “Woodson accommodates our needs well.”