The Cherry Creek School District has 16 “educational interpreters” - professionals with specialized skills to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Those interpreters use sign language and other tools to help students with hearing impairments succeed academically. For example, they attend classes with students and provide communication support so the students understand and can keep pace with classroom discussions and activities.
Those educational interpreters are always striving to improve their instructional practice and better support the students they serve. That’s why eleven of the district’s educational interpreters attended the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE) second annual conference held June 22-25 at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
“All of the workshops and speakers were very informative,” said CCSD educational interpreter Pat Himes. “The one take away that impacted me the most was learning that deaf and hard of hearing students can be mislabeled as low cognitive because they do not have the language skills to answer the questions in cognitive testing. This is a result of the student’s deafness being identified at a later age. This is causing me as an interpreter to evaluate more closely the students I work with and to think about the cognitive level as compared to the language comprehension.”
imes attended the conference with fellow interpreters Susan Brown, Paula Cyphers, Dina Hansen, Laura-Jean Giacinto, Anna Logan, Lindsey Nettleton, Leslie Powell, Kathy Randolph, Paula Thompson and Erica Thornton. They made up the largest contingent from any school district in Colorado.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Navigating the Future.” Plenary sessions and workshops included topics such as “Neurodevelopment of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: The Interpreter’s Role with the Child and the School System” presented by Steve Greene, Ph.D., “The Educational Interpreter’s Impact on Language, Identity and Self Esteem” presented by Paula Rodriquez, “Navigating Incidental Learning” presented by Mindy Hopper, “Reflecting the Work-Demand Control Schema Applied” presented by Amanda Smith and “Common Core Understanding to Unbundling Standards” presented by Angie O’Bleness.
More than 150 educational interpreters, educators and stakeholders attended the conference. They came from 32 states including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Montana and Texas. The conference was sponsored by the Colorado Department of Education, the University of Northern Colorado and Educational Sign Language Interpreters, LLC.
All of the educational interpreters enjoyed networking and collaborating about current issues facing interpreters in each of their states. There is a strong desire to see national standards established for educational interpreters, just as there are national standards for teachers and other school professionals.
Two CCSD interpreters currently hold leadership positions within the National Association of Interpreters in Education (NAIE). Susan Brown is the NAIE President and Pat Himes is the NAIE Secretary.