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    American Sign Language at Juanita High School


    ASL at JHS

    Did you know American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most spoken language in the United States? Being proficient in ASL allows you to communicate with a wide range of hearing, hard of hearing and deaf individuals. Plus, knowing ASL promotes cultural awareness and empathy, which can bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds to build an inclusive community for all.

    That’s why Juanita High School (JHS) is offering ASL as a foreign language. Taught by Toby Welch, he makes it his mission to help students develop their knowledge in ASL, so they can communicate with people in deaf communities.

    Three ASL courses are offered as part of the Human Services pathway. They are one of many Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses offered in Lake Washington School District (LWSD). Other schools that offer these courses are Eastlake High School, Redmond High School and Lake Washington High School.

    The beginning course introduces students to the culture of the deaf and visual language. Students explore deaf values, attitudes and historical aspects of the language. For the intermediate course, students engage in conversations in sign to provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions. In the advanced course, students learn sign linguistics, grammar and structure, and fingerspelling.

    During class, Welch challenges his students to only use sign language to communicate. That means, they cannot use their voice to develop their ASL skills. His hope is to help student build their confidence to communicate with deaf individuals.

    "The ASL courses elevate students to develop sign skills for college as well as a career," said Welch. Two years of American Sign Language satisfies the "world language" entrance requirement for many Washington state colleges and universities. Additionally, students completing ASL courses can earn college credit through LWSD’s dual credit articulation agreement with the Pacific NW College Credit Consortium.

    If students pursue ASL as a career, "They can become a sign language interpreter, provide an advocacy service as an attorney or counselor to the deaf or work at a deaf school as a teacher or teacher aide." In fact, the projected job growth for interpreters and translators through the year of 2029 is an 8% increase with an average salary earning of $56,040, according to O* Net Online, one of the official databases that CTE uses to provide advisory boards with the required information on job demands.

    LWSD offers six different-state approved CTE programs. Within each program, there are 16 nationally recognized career clusters. These courses integrate academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for higher-level courses in college and for high demand, high skill, high wage jobs. Middle schools and high schools offer a wide range of CTE courses. 

    To learn how you can take a CTE course, check out your local school catalog.