Possibilities and Pitfalls of Educational Interpreting

Melissa Smith
Professor and Director, ASL-English Interpreting program
Palomar College
San Marcos, California

Description: Dr. Melissa Smith presents findings of a study revealing what qualified educational interpreters do and why they do what they do. Data indicate that the complexity of educational interpreting extends beyond the primary tasks that educational interpreters perform on a daily basis. In addition, overarching motivations pervasive in school contexts inform interpreters' moment-to- moment decisions about what to do. These decisions, in turn, impact the school experiences of Deaf and hard of hearing students. This presentation illuminates what interpreters need to know in order to be better prepared to meet the unique needs of Deaf and hard of hearing students in mainstreamed school programs. Some strategies and ideas for how interpreters can more effectively negotiate situations they are likely to face in educational contexts will be shared. Dr. Smith calls for a paradigm shift, providing compelling evidence that the roles and responsibilities of educational interpreters must be examined more thoroughly. It is time for all stakeholders-interpreting practitioners, interpreter educators, teachers of Deaf and hard of hearing students, parents, students, teacher educators, and school administrators-to reach consensus about what interpreters need in order to work effectively in school contexts.

Lecturer Bio:
Melissa Smith, Ed.D., RID CI/CT, NAD V, EIPA 4.9
 Melissa is a professor in and the director of the ASL-English interpreting program at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. She earned doctoral and Master's degrees in Teaching and Learning from the University of California, San Diego, and a BA in Spanish with a minor in American Indian Studies from San Diego State University. Her doctoral research explores the practices and decisions of interpreters working in public schools and was published by Gallaudet University Press as More than Meets the Eye: Revealing the Complexities of an Interpreted Education (2103). Her extensive background in education, her own experiences as a second language learner, and her work as an interpreter and interpreter educator allow her to examine the work of educational interpreters through multiple lenses. More importantly, as the parent of a Deaf teenager, she brings a unique perspective to her work and presentations. 

Interpreting in education. (2015). In H. Mikkelson & R. Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting. London and New York: Routledge.

More than Meets the Eye: Revealing the Complexity of an Interpreted Education (2013). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. 

Opening our eyes: The complexity of competing visual demands in interpreted classrooms. (2010). In K. M. Christensen (Ed.), Ethical Considerations in Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.