School cancels ASL 1 classes; advanced ASL to move online


Photo by Addam Sapien

Juniors Aidan Guillan (left) and Braiden Feckley (right), along with other ASL 3 students, are waiting to take an only American Sign Language class through Cerritos College.

Because the school district was unable to hire a qualified American Sign Language instructor, about 60 students who wanted to take the beginning ASL class were forced to transfer to Spanish 1 or French 1 six weeks into the school year.

Current ASL 2 and ASL 3 students are scheduled to take a sign language course hosted by Cerritos College next semester to satisfy their second and third year world language requirements.

FUHS instructor Aaron Truong, who is credentialed to teach French, has been the long-term substitute for the ASL classes since August. Truong taught the first few lessons to ASL students, admitting that he was learning a new language along with the students.

The previous instructor Vivian Leos, who retired last year, was hired through the Regional Occupational Program. But FUHS counselor and ROP coordinator Han Kim says that ROP no longer sponsors Sign Language classes.

Walker leads a circle time discussion with her classes every Friday where students are encouraged to share their highs and lows of the week. Walker uses it as an opportunity to further connect with her students. (Photo by Syd Rosas)

Assistant principal Jon Caffrey said the school waited six weeks to close the ASL 1 classes because officials hoped they could hire a qualified teacher to replace Leos. There are very few people in California, however, who are fully credentialed to teach high school American Sign Language.

Melodie Adams, a Triple Threat performing arts student, delayed taking world language until her junior year. She enrolled in American Sign Language because she wanted to learn to communicate with a deaf friend. “It was kind of stressful and I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to learn ASL now,” Adams said.

Most ASL 1 students were able to transfer to a newly created Period 3 French 1 class or to a Period 6 Spanish 1 class. However, not all students were able to fit the change into their current schedules.

For some students, the shift to another language seemed daunting at first. However, sophomore Gregory Patlan said he’s now enthusiastic about learning French.

“It was a real shame that we can’t do ASL. I was actually learning a lot. I memorized the alphabet,” Patlan said. “In fact, it’s gonna be a little bit of a rough transition to go to French. However, it’s definitely possible for me to learn French.”

French teacher Alexandra Walker agreed to teach the new class, which means that while most teachers have a conference period (a class without students meant to prepare for other classes), Walker teaches six periods a day. Despite the workload, she loves her new class. “They’re really fun and verbal, which is ironic since they are coming from ASL,” Walker said.

Even with the full schedule of teaching 6 periods, Walker is enthusiastic about her new French 1 students and how they are learning, despite not having signed up for French originally. (Photo by Syd Rosas)

Spanish teacher Magdalena Villalba is teaching the additional Period 6 Spanish 1 class created for 25 former ASL 1 students. One ASL student tested into the Spanish for Spanish Speakers class.

Villalba said she is impressed with how well the students are adjusting. “They have a great attitude and are a fun group,” she said. “I’m sure they are sad they didn’t get the language they wanted but they aren’t letting it interfere with their learning. I’m very proud of them.”

Unlike the ASL 1 students, the ASL 2 and ASL 3 students will be able to finish their course this year. Because most colleges require students take two years of the same world language, the school officials had to figure out a way for current ASL students to complete their language requirement despite not having a fully credentialed sign language teacher available.

According to Caffrey, the school has made an arrangement with Cerritos College who will provide an online course and a certified instructor beginning second semester. Fullerton High School and Cerritos College have not finalized the course structure, but Caffrey says some live Zoom meetings are expected to be part of the course.

The semester-long college course will count as a full-year high school course. In the meantime, ASL 2 and ASL 3 students are required to attend a special study hall class where they are held accountable for working on current academic assignments or reviewing ASL content before their course begins in January.

Junior Julie Martinez said she is disappointed with the way the year has turned out and would have been okay with learning sign language with the substitute. “I really like Mr. Truong and the way he taught. Although he didn’t know much about sign language, he ended up learning with us and learning sign language on his own to interact with us,” Martinez said.

Sophomore Isabella Orellana expressed her concerns over the class being online and being taught at a rigorous college level. But she hopes it works out and that the school agrees to have an ASL 3 class next year so she can finish high school with three years of a world language. “I’m sort of nervous about retaining the information but I still want to take ASL 3 next year,” Orellana said.