September 2018 Member Spotlight! Tiffany Barnes

NIC Advanced, Ed: K-12


Region III

Why do you have a passion for interpreting?

I started interpreting fourteen years ago, most likely due to the initial “fascination with the language” story so many new interpreters experience. I fell in love with the language, the community, and everything it entails. After interpreting for around eight years, my second child was born. After passing his original hearing test at birth, we learned of his hearing loss when he was three months old. People are shocked to hear I was an interpreter before he was born, since many times, it’s the other way around. My son is now six years old and has an interpreter at school. My passion for interpreting has increased drastically since his birth. I now understand the importance of interpreting on a completely new level. I don’t interpret just to get the message out any more. I’m much more focused on the client’s comprehension. My son’s experience with interpreters has truly raised my awareness about the clients’ needs. I now try to interpret for everyone the way I hope my son’s interpreters would do for him. I love this field and I’m so thankful to be involved.

Where does your passion lie? Is it in being a bridge between hearing and deaf constituents? Is it in your love for the Deaf community? Is it in interpreting itself? Is it in the “Aha” moment when those you interpret for reach the intended level of understanding made possible through your interpretation?

My passion as an interpreter lies in the educational setting. We’ve all heard the staggering percentages of deaf/hard-of-hearing children who don’t have access to communication at home. I love being able to facilitate communication for these same children in their school environment. Watching children learn and understand is the best part of my job. It’s what makes me go back every day for more!

Is there a golden rule to maintaining longevity in this profession?

I don’t know if there’s necessarily a “golden rule” to maintain longevity in this profession; however, I think keeping your options open is key! Our profession is so unique, in that there are so many possible paths. Educational, mental health, VRS, platform, etc. Other professionals can become stuck in a rut by doing the same thing day in and day out. As an interpreter, try something new! Feeling burnt out in the educational field? Try freelancing! Feeling stressed in your mental health setting? Give VRS a shot! Personally, certain paths have been a better match at different times in my life. Before having children, I was busy working my full-time educational job, freelancing and working VRS. After starting my family, I was able to slow things down a bit and focus only on my educational job.

What was your first official interpreting experience?

My first official experience interpreting was in an educational, mainstream setting. There were four deaf students (all with different language modes!!), a Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing teacher, and a CODA homeroom teacher! Talk about intimidating! Looking back, I wasn’t prepared at all for my first day. I’ve learned so much since that day and have had so many great mentors along the way!

When did you know, “This is for me!”?

Looking back, I knew this was for me during my senior year of high school. I was fascinated watching the interpreter sign what the teacher said and then seeing the student comprehend the message. Up until that year, I had always wanted to be a teacher. Watching the facilitation of communication happen was amazing to me and ultimately changed my future profession. I’m so thankful for that experience during my twelfth-grade year!

How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?

When I was in high school, I was involved in a special education classroom as a peer tutor. There was a student in the class who utilized an interpreter. This is where I first learned of interpreting as a profession.

How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?

I realize being involved with each student on a consistent basis is not something to take lightly. So much of what I do on a daily basis as the educational interpreter can truly impact their future. I’m beyond grateful for having the opportunity to interpret their education each and every day. I know many times, educational interpreting gets a bad rap; however, I couldn’t imagine not being involved with some of the youngest members of the community.

Describe your training experience…

I attended and graduated from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Beyond college, I’ve met some amazing Deaf people and interpreters who have given me encouragement and constructive criticism. Cincinnati State provided me with a great foundation and the community has given me (and is still giving me!) invaluable real-life training.

What words of encouragement do you have for a person like yourself, who is interested in becoming an interpreter?

If someone is interested in becoming an interpreter, I would definitely encourage them to do so! Enroll in an ITP and get involved with the Deaf community. Utilize all the resources you can find, adopt a positive attitude and flexibility. Don’t hesitate to pursue a career in this field. The community is full of people wanting to help you learn and become successful.

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