1. Tell us about your educational background.
I have a doctorate in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education from Lamar University, where I also received my master's degree in Deaf Education. My bachelor's degree is in psychology, and I focused my studies on child development.
2.What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Making it through my doctorate, honestly! I have had the incredible opportunity of getting to engage in so many different research projects with wonderful people and incredible role models. I have gotten to publish papers in scholarly journals and other outlets, present at conferences, and meet so many people on this journey. I'm so grateful I've had the chance to learn from them all and from my studies. During my undergraduate senior year, I was thinking about my future as a graduate student, and I dreamed of setting up my own early childhood learning center where a team of experts could work together on improving outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing children, and now I'm finally getting to work on that project in my current role as director of outreach. That's something that is close to my heart and every day I love getting to do what I do for families and students around the state.
3. How did ASL help you reach your goals?
Before I learned ASL, I was really shy and not at all confident in myself as a deaf person. After I started learning to sign, I really came into my own and threw myself into the Deaf community. I started to actually identify as Deaf, when I before didn't really call myself anything or make a connection to my deaf identity in any way. In meeting the Deaf community, I realized I was normal, and that drove me to work in deaf education, where I felt I could impact families and children early on--sharing with them that being deaf or hard of hearing is beautiful! So that really inspired my goal to work in early intervention. Signing was a key stepping stone for me to find my home in the Deaf community, become confident in my identity as a Deaf person, and work for families that raise deaf and hard of hearing children so that they would know their children's potential too. You can read more about my story finding ASL here and here (at 36:55).
4. What is your all-time favorite sign? Why?
My favorite sign is for the concept "imagine," or "imagination." I think we can create the lives we want to live, and I especially believe that for our deaf and hard of hearing kids!
5. How has being Deaf/HH helped you in life?
Being Deaf has helped me because it gives me a perspective that hearing people don't have. It's given me an appreciation for how life is beautiful in so many different ways, and we don't need to all experience it the same. A friend and professor once said, "Who decided what a rose should look like? What gave them the right to say *this* rose was the ideal rose?" That encapsulates how I feel about people--who decided that deaf and hard of hearing people are inferior or broken? What gave them the right to say that hearing people are the "right" way to be? There are millions of deaf and hard of hearing people just in this country alone, so while we may be a smaller number than hearing people, we aren't a small number when viewed alone. Being Deaf for me is being a part of a larger community of people with shared experiences; being part of a family. The level of love and support is incredible. We all just want the best for the community, especially for the deaf and hard of hearing children who deserve better than what we all have had!
6. How do you think technology is helping Deaf kids learn today?
Technology is helping all kids learn today! For deaf and hard of hearing children specifically, there are a lot more resources out there for deaf and hard of hearing students than before. There is a number of software and online programs that provide access to deaf and hard of hearing children in different ways. For instance, there are some programs that have signing avatars or ASL interpreters on the screen. Other programs have direct access to signing people. Captioning is also becoming more widely available, especially right now during COVID-19. It's great to see our students getting more access, and we need to continue providing access across the board!
7. What is some advice you have for young Deaf/HH children?
My advice for young deaf and hard of hearing children is to keep dreaming and keep doing what drives you every day. Growing up, I played the piano, played tennis and soccer, did taekwondo, and colorguard. I sang in state choir and danced for a preprofessional dance company. These things all made me happy, and a lot of them were things people thought deaf children couldn't do. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something just because you're deaf or hard of hearing. I wanted to be a teacher, but thought I couldn't because I wouldn't be able to hear my students. Guess what? I became a teacher! You can be whatever and whoever you want to be.