What’s Your Story? Volume #3

Apr 21, 2022 | Interpreter Education

by: Kay-Kay Stephenson, NIC - NIR Coordinator

Often times when I am on an interpreting assignment, the question is posed…. “Why or how did you become an interpreter?”

After speaking with many of my colleagues, this is a common occurrence. I thought it would be interesting and fun to find out why or how interpreters came into this field. I think you will find every story a unique one.

I interviewed many interpreters. Here is a brief glimpse into their lives and how they landed into the field of sign language interpreting.

This is Heather’s story

My story begins in Middle School when I read and watched The Miracle Worker for the first time. The first seed had been planted.

Fast forward to early high school and I was exposed to a little Sign Language through signing worship songs at church–another seed planted.

I entered college at Jacksonville State University- Majoring in Secondary Education, with a minor in English. I was going to teach English to high schoolers. That idea is laughable now, but that was the plan. I read in the class offering manual (yes it was an actual hard copy book) that JSU offered ASL classes and I thought, “Oh, easy A! Yes, I’ll take that!” I got into class on the first day and noticed many new faces but we were all chatting and getting to know each other while waiting on the professor. I noticed one man was very quiet, not talking to anyone. I just figured he was an introvert. The professor came in and immediately started signing-without using her voice! Can you say “DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS” moment!?! At the end of signing her intro, she finally spoke up saying, “Now you know how he feels”. That man who was quiet and not talking is Deaf. She explained how Deaf people go through life not knowing what is being said around them and feeling left out and a bit confused. I never forgot that…and that was 20+ years ago. Another seed planted.

I went through ASL I and ASL II falling in love with the language and the Deaf people whom I had the privilege of meeting every day during my time at JSU. I also took a community class at AIDB (AL Institute for the Deaf and Blind). I transferred to Louisiana State University in 2000 where I continued my education on the Secondary Education path. When I moved to Baton Rouge, LA I stayed with a couple whose wife was Hard of Hearing and was an itinerant teacher of the Deaf. We decided to take a community ASL class at the Louisiana School for the Deaf and Blind. This is where I got put on the path I am on today. I am currently a Nationally Certified Interpreter working in a high school and do freelance community work in a variety of settings.

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