Why do you have a passion for interpreting?
It’s the fire of injustice and using my power and privilege and ability to “be at the table” and work for equity and justice. I was lucky enough to learn from Gish (Sandra Gish) and she really sparked this in the way she paralleled different civil rights movements to advance dignity, equity, and inclusion. That really drives my passion for interpreting work with DeafBlind, Deaf, and hearing folks.
Where does your passion lie?
My passion is in giving hearing-sighted students an understanding of the DeafBlind community and getting to introduce DeafBlind thought leaders and change agents to students who then really have their own “aha!” moments. My passion is in using my hearing-sighted privilege for good to collaborate with DeafBlind leaders and bolster protactile language and the foundational principle of autonomy. My passion is also in community service. For a very long time, it’s been in LGBTQ advocacy and education, and now I have been elected to serve on the City Council in my town. I love getting to bring my heart and my quest for justice into that work as well.
Is there a golden rule to longevity in this profession?
Flexibility and an open mind, letting go of what you can’t control, and knowing that inevitably, you’re going to be working with folks again and again, so being kind matters.
What was your first official interpreting experience?
Ha, that was way back in the 1900s! Not sure I remember… I do remember volunteering at my first DeafBlind weekend camp when I was an interpreting student. I totally freaked out. Wasn’t sure I would know what to do or how I could be clear and wasn’t sure I would ever work with DeafBlind folks again. But company counts, and my interpreting friends all went back again to volunteer, so I did too, and I was able to find this genuinely supportive community of patient and resilient DeafBlind folks. Who knew where I’d end up today? A lot of credit goes to those early formative experiences, and the courage, compassion, and connection that we all felt and shared.
When did you know, “This is for me”?
I think this is still an active affirmation: This is for me! When I see meaning transfer. When I see Deaf and DeafBlind folks have leadership, authority, and autonomy, as well as commensurate status, employment, and paychecks. When I see hearing-sighted folks learn from DeafBlind folks, not just in an academic, teach-me-sign-language setting, but in the real world. These are all the affirmations that continue to solidify that “this is for me.”
How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?
I worked at a video rental store. I knew the ASL ABC’s and would fingerspell if any Deaf customers came in. I took an ASL class in community college and on the first day the teacher signed to us – I didn’t understand anything. About halfway through, a guy stood up from the corner of the room and walked to the middle and sat down. I thought he was breaking the rule of being in a circle out of frustration that he couldn’t see. Instead, he began voicing for the teacher! It hadn’t occurred to me that the teacher was Deaf. Something in that moment of relaying info, being “in character” and playing (voicing/signing) different parts, communicating different affects and emotions… it harkened back to all my years of doing theatre. I was intrigued by how he matched the teacher’s meaning. That was a moment for me and I was so curious I began to interview (interrogate) the college’s staff interpreters and one turned me on to Western Oregon’s interpreting program.
How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?
So many of my chosen family are folks who are from my interpreting career. I have had beautiful opportunities to learn about subjects I never thought I’d be exposed to. I laugh when I remember the years I spent as an educational interpreter in a middle and high school and thought, “wait – I never learned this!” I love being in situations that I never would otherwise. I love learning about people. And I love that interpreting has provided me the opportunity to team with folks on projects that matter and make a difference to our profession. Now that I am on the administrative side of our profession, working on interpreter training grants, I have had the opportunity to appreciate our working practitioners, interpreter educators, and other interpreter training grant folks from all over the US and even the territorial islands. We all have passion to contribute to this profession and a heart for making a better quality of life for all Deaf and DeafBlind folks.
Describe your training experience.
I know how lucky I am to have learned under Gish (Sandra Gish) over 25 years ago. I went through Western Oregon’s former 1-year interpreting program and was in the first batch of folks to complete their bachelor’s degree in interpreting. I also love going to conferences and workshops for more training! Even with so much offered online nowadays, I still love the collegiality of face-to-face professional development and training.
What words of encouragement do you have for a person like yourself, who is interested in becoming an interpreter?
I was a part of the team that created www.DiscoverInterpreting.org and I created the active Facebook group. What I’ve learned in my career is that while there is absolutely an aspirational standard (to become RID-certified), where folks live/work really determines whether that standard is necessary. At the end of the day, we need interpreters. We do not have enough qualified and ready interpreters entering our profession. Having worked closely for years with the interpreters on Guam and Saipan, I know that they don’t need the RID standard of certification. But they still need and deserve ongoing interpreter training. I would say to anyone considering a career that it requires a tremendous degree of flexibility and an open mind. I see interpreters who really stunt their own growth because they don’t have an open mind. So folks who have integrity, grit, curiosity, the ability to question their work – not for self deprecation but for self-improvement, fluency, a relationship with the Deaf and DeafBlind community outside of an academic environment, the ability to budget and prioritize their own professional development and go to workshops and conferences to stay current on content… all of that… it’s all building blocks to becoming a successful interpreter. So I say go for it – begin your studies and find mentors and take a lot of volunteer opportunities to grow your skills and build your network. I also love that you can find your niche or wheelhouse in our profession, whether it’s medical, mental health, legal, educational, VRS, community, religious, etc. There are ways to create your own adventure as an interpreter and there really are a lot of possibilities for where to go and what suits you within our profession.