Holding a world of conversation in her hands

Fort Wayne resident Nancy Myers once had to be escorted by the police out the back door with a client because his wife showed up in the waiting area at the parole office and the officer didn’t want a confrontation.

Lest you judge Myers too harshly for escaping with a client who was avoiding his wife, it may help to know that she is a certified interpreter for the deaf community, and that her deaf client was meeting with his parole officer. Myers was interpreting.

“There were abuse issues – her against him,” explained Myers, “and the officer felt it was safer for all around if my client and I left by the back door until the wife had gone.

“Every job is strictly confidential, and it is as if I weren’t even there. I have interpreted for several probation officer meetings and also for emergency room jobs.

“Everyone is always so relieved when the interpreter shows up so that communication can happen more easily. I almost passed out one morning, though, in pre-op when they were inserting needles, drawing blood, hooking up IVs, etc. for a deaf patient. I’m a bit squeamish. I have to be careful what assignments I accept so that I don’t become the patient, too!”

Nancy Myers Myers is a special education teacher with NACS, teaching deaf education and interpreting classes. She is also the only teacher in the northeast Indiana district who is teaching ASL (American Sign Language) for high school credit, much as a foreign language would be, if a student chose that elective. (Said Myers, “We have a LOT of fun in my classes!”)

Nancy Myers Myers is a special education teacher with NACS, teaching deaf education and interpreting classes. She is also the only teacher in the northeast Indiana district who is teaching ASL (American Sign Language) for high school credit, much as a foreign language would be, if a student chose that elective. (Said Myers, “We have a LOT of fun in my classes!”)

Myers has interpreted in many counseling sessions, “when the discussions become very deep and personal, and those are especially draining for me since I try to voice all the emotion from the deaf person. I have also signed during X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs, and regular appointments and exams.

“For the MRI, it is quite a lengthy process and nerve-wracking when you can’t hear nor see the interpreter once it starts. I stand right next to the deaf patient with my hand on a forearm or foot. I let them know I’m there the whole time and then give a little squeeze when the process is finished. During ultrasounds, I try to describe with sign language what sounds I hear. Also, when I sign various X-rays with clients, I have had to wear lead vests.”

Other places Myers has signed include churches, and “cool job training classes,” such as beauty college for hair stylists, automotive classes and culinary arts courses. She has also interpreted in South Carolina, Florida, and Connecticut and other states, and currently interprets at Pathway Community Church.

Michelle Obama with interpreter Nancy Myers at North Side High School when the former came to town during her husband’s campaign in 2008.

Michelle Obama with interpreter Nancy Myers at North Side High School when the former came to town during her husband’s campaign in 2008.

Myers graduated from Ball State with a double major in elementary education and deaf education. She had to pass rigorous exams to get her RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) certification and to hold an IIC (Indiana Interpreter Certificate) Certificate for the State of Indiana.

“(The RID exam) was a 3-hour test focusing mainly on ethics, history, laws and Deaf Education… I was so excited I got a tattoo on my back to celebrate – it is the sign for interpreter.” Myers, who has two children – Madeline, 15, and Mark, 11 – is a special education teacher with NACS, teaching deaf education and interpreting classes. She is also the only teacher in the northeast Indiana district who is teaching ASL (American Sign Language) for high school credit, much as a foreign language would be, if a student chose that elective. (Said Myers, “We have a LOT of fun in my classes!”) Myers’ mother, deaf from the tender age of 2, was an excellent lip reader but never learned sign language. “Growing up, I would often be responsible for making phone calls or helping Mom understand in noisy situations,” said Myers who decided to become a teacher for the deaf, out of compassion for her mother. “I went to Deaf Camp and volunteered without knowing sign language, but learned so much from the experience. I also got a scholarship to Ball State, which is the only university in Indiana to offer a degree in Deaf Education, so I felt God was really opening that door for me.” Many hearing children often take advantage of deaf parents; did Myers get into childhood mischief similarly? “Oh, my gosh, my sister and I were awful. We would sit in the back seat of the car and not move our lips when talking so she couldn’t read our lips,” recalled Myers. “She had a ‘clapper’ hooked to a lamp in her room so she knew when the phone was ringing. We would come in and yell or make weird noises so the lamp would switch on and off over and over. My friends were shocked at what I talked about ‘in front of my mom’ but I knew if I just turned my back to her, she wouldn’t hear me or be able to speechread.” One of the most exciting experiences for Myers was in 2008 when she interpreted for Michelle Obama at North Side High School during the latter’s campaign. “I was so nervous to be on the stage with her and to look out and see the full auditorium and all the news cameras in the back,” said Myers. “She spoke to me before and after her speech, gave me a hug and thanked me. I don’t remember a word she said, but she talked for over an hour. “My brain was exhausted, but I was thrilled!”


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