Allie Ward Elementary sign language interpreter helps students
Crystal Porter hopes to make Deaf Awareness Week more eventful next September.The last full week in September is an opportunity for people like Porter, a certified sign language interpreter, to raise awareness about hearing disabilities and also to empower those who deal with deafness.
Porter, who can hear, interprets for five students at Allie Ward Elementary School.
Next fall, she plans to devote each day of Deaf Awareness Week to a different concept about deafness, from technological support for the hearing-impaired to social courtesies to keep in mind when communicating with a deaf person.
Porter teaches sign language classes every Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Ward. Last Monday, Porter told her class of 11 adults that the Abilene community needs to be informed about the city’s deaf population. She wants to break stereotypes that limit people with hearing disabilities.
“They can do anything except hear,” Porter said.
With Porter leading, members of her class mimicked her hands to form letters and complete the sign language alphabet. The 10-week class is available through Abilene Independent School District. Cost is $50 plus $10 for a book. Anyone can still join the class Monday.
When Porter was a child, she took the initiative to learn sign language so that she could communicate with a deaf friend at her church. After high school she attended Southwest Collegiate University of the Deaf in Big Spring. She has worked as an interpreter for AISD since 2005.
On Monday, Porter sat in the hallway of Ward to listen to one of her first-graders, Jack Ballard, read.
“Who wrote the words?” Porter asked. Jack looked at the word, author, and looked back at Porter.
“Do you know how to say it?” Porter asked.
She pronounced the word with animated syllables.
“They’re watching my facial expressions, lips and the words,” Porter said.
Porter is one of 10 interpreters in the AISD.
The school system officially uses a form of sign language called Conceptual Accurate Signed English. Porter also communicates with Signing Exact English and American Sign Language.
She’s worked in high school as well as elementary. One of her greatest challenges as an interpreter was signing for high school athletes at every practice and game. She’s interpreted for students involved in power lifting, football and track.
The process required her to study each sport and learn new signs for sports vocabulary.
“It’s a never-ending process to learn signs,” Porter said.
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