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Students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind head to Academic Bowl nationals

Students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind head to Academic Bowl nationals

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GOODING — As high schoolers at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind prepare to compete at Academic Bowl nationals, they’re thinking about their former teacher.

Rose Crews, who died at age 56 in July after a battle with liver cancer, resurrected the Gooding school’s team about eight years ago.

“We’re playing at nationals for Rose, our former teacher,” 18-year-old Connor Wynn said. Wynn has been on the Academic Bowl team for four years.

Earlier this month, ISDB’s Academic Bowl team placed third during a regional competition in Phoenix against other teams made up of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The team will advance to the national competition April 11 to 15 at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Gallaudet is “the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students,” according to the university’s website.

The Gallaudet University Academic Bowl has four regional competitions each year for about 80 high school teams. Of those, 20 — including ISDB — are advancing to nationals.

One year, ISDB qualified as a wild card draw for nationals, but this time, students qualified by placing at regionals.

With some new ISDB Academic Bowl participants this year, students had to build chemistry as a team, co-coach Marcos Aguilar said.

And there was an even more significant hurdle.

“First to prepare, we have to overcome Rose’s death,” Aguilar said, and that’s tough.

For many of the students on ISDB’s Academic Bowl team — and their coaches — the chance to compete at nationals goes beyond academics.

“I hope they learn to make friends,” Aguilar said. “That’s my biggest goal.”

Gallaudet University is a “mecca of deaf culture,” he said, and the trip will give students the chance to explore outside of Idaho and bring that culture back to the state.

Zack Smith, 17, said he’s looking forward to socializing with other students who are deaf. It’s his second year on ISDB’s Academic Bowl team.

“I want to experience deaf culture, like in the east,” he said.

During class Wednesday, students practiced answering science questions, led by Academic Bowl co-coaches Aguilar and Candice Larsen.

Questions included the point when it’s no longer possible to distinguish liquids and solids (critical point) and the first four satellites Galileo discovered that orbit the fifth planet from the sun (moons of Jupiter).

Each question was displayed on a projector in front of the classroom. When a student knew the answer, they hit a buzzer, wrote down the answer on the piece of paper and held it up.

To get ready for nationals, team members are learning to get faster with reading and answering questions, said 16-year-old Maizy Wilcox. And they’re studying, she said — a lot.

They’re learning about topics such as current events, history, deaf history, math, science, English and important books, Maizy said. Academic Bowl is a class at ISDB, so students practice every school day.

At regionals, “I felt nervous during the competition,” Maizy said. But now, she’s looking forward to nationals. “I like to travel and meet new people, so I’m excited.”

Alaina Pooley, 17, said she’s especially interested in history, deaf history and art. “I like studying new things.”

Connor said he and his teammates read newspapers to stay up on current events.

He said he enjoys the benefits team members receive by being on the Academic Bowl team, such as being able to use the teachers’ lounge and going to competitions. He’s looking forward to nationals, being at Gallaudet University and “the deaf culture that’s there.”

Note: Several interviews in this story used an American Sign Language interpreter.

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