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Saturday, August 15, 2020

All signs point to teaching

When it came to teaching, all signs pointed to yes for Stephanie Durand and her energy can be felt in the classroom.

“You know in high school, in English class they ask you to write a journal, right? They always said, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ And I always wrote teacher, always,” Durand said.

This semester Durand became a full-time American Sign Language [ASL] professor at Pierce. She joined the ASL/Interpreter Education Program as an adjunct professor in the Fall of 2014. Durand who was born deaf, brings something unique to the classroom.

According to Kristine Hall, ASL program director, throughout the country most people who are hired to teach interpreting are hearing.

“She’s deaf teaching interpreting. That’s really a big difference, and an added bonus compared to the other programs,” Hall said.

Prior to working at Pierce, Durand taught for three years at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. She is a former student as well as educator from Gaulladet. She became “enthralled” with the ASL linguistics classes and earned her Masters in Sign Language Education from the university. It is the one and only deaf university in the world. Durand taught ASL, deaf culture, deaf studies, as well as interpreting during her time there.

When Hall heard about Durand, she knew what value Durand could bring to students at Pierce. Hall, who was also a Gaulladet graduate student, planned to get Durand a position for the program here.

“Stephanie had graduated from the same program that I was attending and I needed help. I thought I was rather smart to ask to meet her, to tutor me, all the while knowing she teaches sign language and I was involved in this hiring process,” she said.

The rest is history. After meeting, Hall hired Durand.  

“I was so impressed with her energy and her perspective. Just watching her work is amazing,” Hall said.

ASL student Joshua Kuehl enjoys learning from Durand.

“I am growing in my knowledge of both the culture and the language everyday with this program by having awesome professors such as Stephanie Durand. Her personality allows me to feel more included in the classroom environment, and I feel like she brings a lot of cultural knowledge into the class,” Kuehl said.

Jennifer Brasuell is a student who takes ASL 2, and audits ASL 1. She thinks Durand is great at catering to student needs.

“She does very well at either slowing down for the one; she’s a little faster in the two. It just depends on the level. She is very good at explaining the signs, not just the word but the meaning behind it since it’s very contextual,” Brasuell said.

According to Brasuell, for the ASL 1 class, students took a tour of Pierce one day while learning to sign words for the different things around them. Durand has a knack for engaging students.

“She definitely makes class entertaining and fun. So you’re learning without even realizing it sometimes,” Brasuell said.

Though Durand is the instructor, educating teaches her something new all the time.

“The students teach me about life, and their own individual experiences, their cultures, their community. I’m almost amazed at how much I learn. Everyday there’s one of those moments where I go oh, I didn’t know that. I really like that. The biggest impact is the students. They mean a lot to me,” Durand said.

Another person who has impacted Durand is her grandmother. She passed when she was two, but provides a source of influence for anything Durand faces in life.

“My family always says that I’m just like her. And when things come up I persevere, and she always persevered. So whenever something comes up I think of my grandma and I can get through it,” Durand said.

Durand wants students and everyone to know that the door is always open.

“I want the Pierce College community to understand that they’re welcome here. It’s not just about the language, it’s about our culture. And they may find that their own cultural experiences resonate within the deaf community,” she said.

“None of us live in a vacuum and you find similarities everywhere. So I think that you can come here, find a connection, and a comfortable home, even.”

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