Think back to your first day of kindergarten. You might have been unsure about the new experience, excited at the opportunity to learn new things, or nervous about how to make friends. Now try to imagine all those feelings mixed in with the uncertainty of how you are going to communicate with your teacher and classmates because you are deaf. If you are a kindergartner in Aurora Public Schools, you might have Chelsea Rossetto to help facilitate those conversations.
Rossetto is in her second year as an Educational Sign Language Interpreter and has worked with a wide age-range of school kids. This year, her student is a kindergartner. Her role includes not only interpreting, but also teaching her young student how to use an interpreter and being one of his language models.
According to the National Association of the Deaf, interpreting involves more than just signing. An interpreter must accurately convey messages between two different languages, which is a skill that takes time to develop. Studies have shown that when deaf and hard-of-hearing children are exposed to American Sign Language at an early age, they are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.
“The biggest challenge I face is keeping myself accountable,” Rossetto said. “I am helping my students learn their language. That's a big deal! I care a lot about doing a good job for the students and I don't take the job lightly. I am amazed every day with my job. I get to help show these students the world and that's an incredible feeling.”
In a 2010‒2011 study, The U.S. Department of Education estimated that that there were roughly 1,270 students (or 0.17 percent of the entire student population) in Colorado with hearing impairments. The study also reported that 65.5 percent of those students spend more than 80 percent of their days inside regular classrooms. That is why it’s so important that Chelsea is in the classroom every day with her student.
Rossetto gets to school each day about a half hour before the bell rings to begin preparing for the day. She reads the day’s lessons and prepares any signs or tutoring materials she may need.
“I'm in the mainstream class all day so I interpret all classes from math, science, social studies, art, PE, you name it! Kindergarten prep work is pretty light, but if I were in middle or high school, I would have to prepare quite a bit more,” she explains.
In addition to sign language interpretation in public schools, some may be surprised to learn that the Deaf culture is all around us. In fact, The Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing estimates that there are over 46,000 deaf people in Colorado.
“If I could say anything to someone curious about my job, I'd ask them to learn more about Deaf culture,” Rossetto said. “We recognize so many different cultures here in America, but one that is often overlooked is the Deaf culture. It's a rich and vibrant culture that is everywhere!
So what are her recommendations?
“Take a sign language class and get to know the people in the Deaf community,” she said. “Learn more and you'll fall in love like I did!”
Resources to learn more about the local Deaf community:
- Colorado Association of the Deaf
- Colorado Deaf Social Network
- Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Colorado Deaf
- Deaf Overcoming Violence through Empowerment (DOVE)
- Colorado Families for Hands & Voices
- Denver American Sign Language Meetup
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This post was written by Linda Marquez, Senior Creative Services Specialist at Colorado PERA. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.