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For its continuing quality and contributions to the community, Waubonsee is proud to honor its interpreter training program as part of its “Placing Learning First: Faculty and Program Recognition.”

Waubonsee Interpreting Program Recognized

Students sit in a classroom with separate workstations equipped with cameras and computers, videotaping themselves signing.
As Waubonsee Community College Assistant Professor of Interpreter Training/Sign Language Cassie Moore (standing) works one-on-one with a student, other members of the class continue practicing their signing and interpreting skills. The interpreting lab at the Aurora Campus includes video cameras that capture students’ performances for later review and feedback.

Sugar Grove – When it was established in 1976, Waubonsee Community College’s Interpreter Training Program (ITP) was the first of its kind in the state. A pioneer in the field of interpreting for the deaf, the program has produced hundreds of alumni, many of whom have gone on to great professional accomplishments. For its continuing quality and contributions to the community, Waubonsee is proud to honor ITP as part of its “Placing Learning First: Faculty and Program Recognition.”

The ITP has its roots in the Waubonsee Hearing Impaired Program, which served deaf and hearing-impaired students from community college districts across the state. With so many interpreters and teachers needed for that program, it made sense for the college to train people for the profession. An Associate in Applied Science (AAS) Degree and Certificate of Achievement in the discipline were both approved by the Illinois Community College Board in 1976.

Thirty-six years later, the program has expanded to include a 72-semester-hour AAS degree, a 33-semester-hour Certificate of Achievement and a 24-semester-hour Sign Language Certificate of Achievement. Students in the degree program must complete two semesters worth of sign language courses before moving on to the interpreter training courses, and completion of the sign language certificate is required for entry into the interpreter training certificate program.

This rigor continues once students enter the program, with a cumulative 3.0 grade point average required to stay in the program. Plus, they must finish all interpreter training courses with a “C” or better within a three-year timeframe to complete a degree or certificate.

Over the years, Waubonsee has awarded 276 degrees in the field, along with 283 certificates. Many of these students have gone on to tremendous professional accomplishments; in fact, Waubonsee alumni have served as presidents of both the National and Illinois Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf.

As a member of the deaf community herself, Assistant Professor of Interpreter Training/Sign Language Katie Thomas often sees graduates in professional settings.

“I often get my former students as my interpreters, so I want to be able to understand the interpreted lecture/conversations well,” Thomas said. “Also, I have an obligation to the deaf community who will be using the same interpreters that I teach. Overall, I am proud of how Waubonsee teaches students professionalism, dignity and good public relations with deaf people outside the college.” 

Waubonsee students get the chance to work with members of the deaf community in both controlled classroom and actual interpreting settings. Given the interpreting program’s strong history and reputation in the community, faculty are able to bring in deaf consumers to role play with students and offer honest feedback about their interpreting skills and performance. The capstone class of both the interpreting degree and certificate is ITP 290 – The Interpreter as Practitioner, a practicum course that allows students to apply and refine their skills in a workplace environment and also provide volunteer interpreting services at community events.

In addition to the feedback they receive from deaf consumers and professional colleagues, Waubonsee students are also able to receive very specific feedback from teachers and even themselves thanks to the CommuniCoach system. In this system, which was developed by Waubonsee communications faculty, students are videotaped during their signing performances, so that instructors can pinpoint exactly where and how they can improve.

While the interpreting program offers state-of-the-art instructional methods, a variety of networking opportunities and a great pay-off, it does require a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of the students. For example, the ITP courses must be completed as a full-time day program, so students must schedule accordingly. This is something that is not lost on the ITP instructors.

“I know how much our students sacrifice to be here and see how hard they work,” said Professor of Interpreter Training/Sign Language Dr. Lynn Clark. “It inspires me to give my all.”

Dr. Clark has been giving her all to Waubonsee’s ITP since she became a full-time instructor in 1980. She will retire at the end of the academic year with 32 years of teaching memories.

Dr. Clark holds a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in counseling from Michigan State University. She earned her doctorate in psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 1989. She holds national certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and is licensed at the general-master level by the State of Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission.

Also holding national certification from the RID and licensed at the advanced level by the State of Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission is Assistant Professor of Interpreter Training/Sign Language Cassie Moore. Moore also holds a national education K-12 certification from RID. She joined Waubonsee as a part-time interpreter in 1989, taught part-time from 1990 to 2008 and spent eight years as a part-time counselor at the college as well before being hired as a full-time instructor four years ago. Moore earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communicative disorders from Northern Illinois University.

Katie Thomas also spent time as a part-time interpreter at the college before becoming an instructor in 1995. Holding a bachelor’s degree in special education from Northern Illinois University, Thomas has been working to develop interpreting standards for the Illinois court system. She also holds national certification from RID, is licensed at the master level by the State of Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission, and is a member of the American Sign Language Teachers Association.