FCPS ASL Academic Team qualifies for Eastern Regionals at Kentucky School for the Deaf


Jenna Fountain

Freshman Bailey Franks signs “Academic Bowl” to show support for the FCPS ASL Academic Bowl Team.

by Jenna Fountain, Reporter

As Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) continues to grow, the expansion of new events and activities to be inclusive of all students continues. This includes the creation of the American Sign Language (ASL) Academic Team.

Four students from different schools in Frederick County are working their way up to compete in The Gallaudet University Academic Bowl. 

Qualifying rounds took place in late November, with the Eastern Regional competition occurring on March 9-12, 2023 and Nationals on April 20-24, 2023.

Christie Flayhart is a supervisor for both the teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Office of Interpreting Services in FCPS. Flayhart is in control of arrangements such as planning where the team will meet, collecting parent permission for student participation, and organizing the trip to the Eastern Regional Tournament. 

“The Gallaudet University Academic Bowl is an annual competition for students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing to compete in quiz tournaments at the local, regional and national level,” said Flayhart. 

The Gallaudet University Academic Bowl has been an impactful event in the Deaf and hard of hearing community for more than 20 years.

According to the Gallaudet University website, “Gallaudet University established its first National Academic Bowl in 1997 with the goals of promoting academic competition among school teams and fostering academic excellence and achievement among Deaf and hard of hearing students across the country.” 

Keith Nolan is a co-coach of the FCPS ASL Academic Bowl team. He has coached for four years total and even participated as a student in the 1998 Gallaudet Academic Bowl. 

“The Academic Bowl … provides an opportunity for Deaf and hard of hearing high school students across the country to not only participate and compete but to also create lifelong memories and friendship!” said Nolan.

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl is much more than a competition; it offers lasting memories for competitors and coaches alike. 

Although now a coach, Nolan has fond memories of his own participation in the competition. In 1998, Nolan participated in The Gallaudet University Academic Bowl and won. 

“When I was a player myself and in the regional championship match, it came down to the last question that would determine who would be the winner: name the two moons that orbit Mars. It was Phobos and Deimos, and we got it right!” said Nolan.“We just jumped right out of our seats in victory,” said Nolan.

The current coaches of the FCPS ASL Academic Team are Nolan, teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Jerri Seremuth, ASL teacher at Middletown High.

FCPS’ inaugural team has four students from four different high schools: Frederick High, Oakdale High, Middletown High and Urbana High.

Following their competition on November 7, the team qualified for the Eastern Regional Bowl in Kentucky. They are putting in hard work and effort to make it all the way to nationals.

In order to compete at national level, teams must make it past qualifying rounds and compete and win at regionals.

A lot of hard work and dedication goes into preparing for these competitions. Practices are held both virtually and face-to-face for maximized practice time and efficiency. 

“We are so excited for our students to have the opportunity to interact and compete with their peers throughout the county, region and nation. Those interactions are priceless,” said Flayhart. 

Coaches Nolan and Seremuth have important duties to help prepare the FCPS team for competitions.

“Our job as a coach is to prepare the team for the competition, make decisions about roster changes, determine the order in which players sit and answer questions during Round 2, call timeouts, encourage [the team] to have good sportsmanship, represent FCPS well and, of course, have fun!” Said Nolan.

Both FCPS coaches are very passionate about their team members and want them to succeed. 

“[We] prepare students for the academic bowl by giving them practice in all subjects and [by] giving [them] moral support,” said Seremuth. 

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl covers a variety of different subjects which coaches help their team prepare for. 

Questions may be asked from categories such as Arts & Entertainment; Current Events; Language and Literature; Mathematics; Pop Culture, Leisure and Sports; Potpourri; and Science and Technology.

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl is an opportunity for Deaf and hard of hearing students to show off their knowledge, skills and teamwork through healthy competition.

“I believe the Academic Bowl is important as it fosters love of knowledge among our students,” said Nolan.

According to OHLONE College, “All high schools and programs serving Deaf and hard of hearing students are encouraged to enter the competition.”

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl is free to attend for audience members and families of competitors.

Participation for the academic bowl grows more and more with every year. Schools from all over the country have been inspired to create an ASL academic team of their own. 

This is the first year that FCPS has their own team and a chance to make it to the Gallaudet Academic Bowl.

FCPS’ inaugural academic team demonstrates a new, needed advancement for the inclusion of Deaf and hard of hearing students in extracurricular activities.

For more information you can contact co-coaches at [email protected] and [email protected] or you can visit Gallaudet University’s Academic Bowl FAQ