LPHS ASL program thrives


It is not uncommon for high schools to offer foreign languages like Spanish, French, and German. Luckily for Slicer students, LPHS offers a three-year American Sign Language (ASL) course, an ASL Club, and the ASL Honor Society.

Joanna Witulski teaches the ASL classes and is the sponsor for the ASL Club and the ASL Honor Society. She is fully deaf and uses sign language as a form of communication. If students don’t know how to sign then, Witulski will communicate with them in different ways. She will either use gestures, write on paper, or use a dry-erase board. 

“ASL is a living language like English, Spanish, German and French. We express the language differently, giving a taste of a different spice in life,” Witulski said. 

ASL is a visual language and strictly uses manual and non-manual features. People who are typically partially deaf, fully deaf, and/or have speech impediments use ASL to communicate around them. 

Learning sign language is unique because of its modality – how language is expressed. Sign language (applies to all sign languages across the world and there are different ones just like spoken languages) uses the hands and eyes and has a relationship with space. The tonal grammar is on the face.  One uses the eyes instead of the ears for comprehension. It is a difficult process to get used to when it comes to understanding others who sign,” Witulski said. 

Students start out with the basics. They will learn how to communicate needed phrases in the classroom, like asking and answering questions. They also learn what they use in common environments such as sports and activities. Then they learn how to finger-spell the alphabet and their names.

“It is more than just learning ASL. It is applying what you learn, not only with the teacher – it could be a neighbor, family member, friend or someone you happen upon at work. One part of using ASL is inclusivity,” Witulski said.  

The ASL Club is one of the extracurricular activities students who are interested in sign language can join even without being in the class. Many freshmen join because ASL is not offered in 9th grade, and they get a head start on gaining knowledge about the language and its importance of it. If students are interested in ASL Club, then they need to listen to the announcements for club information. 

The ASL Honor Society is an opportunity for students who have a passion for the language and cannot take the course or are in the course. Students have to be eligible to join. Sophomores who are going into their junior year and juniors who are going to be seniors are only allowed to join the ASL Honor Society and have to have a minimum general GPA of 2.5 and a GPA of 3.0 in ASL. Another part of eligibility is how the student’s attitude is toward the class. If he/she is showing fiery passion for the language, willingness to apply, and uses the language in and out of the classroom, then they are eligible. Every year students are required to have seven service hours. The students are spreading awareness of ASL and deaf culture through different means. They even sign the National Anthem at various school events like graduation.

“I really enjoy being a part of the LPHS ASL Honor Society. I have been able to build bonds with people I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for ASL. The experiences and things I have learned are something I will carry with me. Being in ASLHS has been an honor, and I can’t wait to see who is inducted in this year,” Mackenzie Mullins, senior ASLHS member, said.

Over time, ASL has become a popular language choice for students. Slicers who are interested can add the course to their schedule for the 2023-2024 school year. If students have any questions, they can email Witulski at [email protected] or see her in room H.11. 


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