A SIGN language teacher who challenges prejudices about the deaf could win an international award after judges read about her pioneering work in Syllabus.

Debbie Reynolds, 32, has visited the region's classrooms to teach pupils British Sign Language (BSL) - regardless of whether they had hearing problems or not.

The scheme, which won backing from education chiefs and deaf charities, was launched by Debbie, who is hard of hearing, in a bid to end stigma and break down barriers between pupils who are deaf and those who are not.

Participants receive certificates after learning lip reading, finger spelling and different signs, such as numbers, colours and common phrases.

Pupils are also offered a chance to learn more complex signs and language structure surrounding BSL, the preferred language of about 70,000 people in the UK, including thousands of East Lancashire residents.

Now Debbie, of Preston Old Road, Feniscowles, has been nominated alongside 29 other linguists from 30 countries for the Inttranet Linguist of the Year Award 2006.

The awards are run by Inttranet, a multilingual internet network and daily news service for professional interpreters and translators in more than 40 countries. Nominees are selected in relation to the frequency and impact of their presence in the press worldwide during 2006 and increasing public awareness of the importance of linguists and languages.

Malcolm Duff, Inttranet director general, said she was put forward by impressed judges based on an article first published on the Lancashire Telegraph website on April 19.

He said: "Our purpose in creating the awards is to achieve greater public recognition for the nominees, in the hope that this will be of benefit to them and to their work. Ms Reynolds' project seemed exemplary."

Debbie, who works through her company, School of Sign Language, said: "It is fantastic news. When I was featured in Syllabus I had just started out on my own. Now I employ five staff as well as 10 volunteers from an office in Blackburn's Bolton Road.

"Since April we have delivered taster sessions to over 4,000 East Lancashire pupils who've responded brilliantly.

"Hopefully one day BSL will be a GCSE option and help address the shortage of BSL interpreters in the UK."

Inttranet members had until December 31 to take part in an online vote and the awards will be announced later this month.