Logo for CIT 2020 Conference - Transforming Interpreter Education

Mentoring Special Populations: Seeking the Essential Elements

by Christine Multra Kraft, Carla Shird, Valerie McMillan, Babetta Popoff, Erica West Oyedele, & Amy Williamson


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Advancements in technology and communication have made it possible for community-based Interpreter skill development programs to work with learners from across the country and beyond, bringing training and mentoring opportunities to communities that are underserved or typically do not benefit from the model of traditional instruction. In our programs, Compass, Deaf Interpreter Academy, and Project CLIMB, we have designed our learning tracks with specific populations in mind and adjusted traditional mentoring models to meet their unique needs while taking advantage of the newest approaches in distance learning.

Compass serves Heritage Learners of ASL, Deaf Interpreter Academy has programs for both Deaf Interpreters and POC/Trilingual Deaf Interpreters, and Project CLIMB targets marginalized populations.

Separately, through our programs working with these unique populations, our instructor staff have developed a sense of what are likely essential factors in the mentoring relationships. Now, collectively, we are combining our success stories and challenges to distinguish and catalog these specific factors for successful mentoring relationships.

When applying our strategies to instruction and mentoring, evaluation is a crucial step to ensure delivery methods fit our target learners. Factoring in learner comprehension and use of training materials, assessing the impact the learning structure has on the process is necessary to figure out the best approach to support special populations. Through the lens of Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method (SCM), this collective project takes stories from our (multiple) program stakeholders to illustrate factors that enhance or impede impact. Using SCM framework, we will look at our programs’ most and least successful experiences; by identifying and examining the extreme cases, SCM asks: ‘When the program works, how well does it work? What is working, and what is not?’

Using the SCM framework, successful mentoring relationships across different programs serving special populations will be explored to answer any, or all, of the following questions:

  • What is really happening?
  • What results, if any, is the program helping to produce?
  • What is the value of the results?
  • How could the initiative be improved?
    (Brinkerhoff, 2003, p. 6-7)

As experienced interpreter educators and mentors, we have time tested tools for bringing the practice of interpreting to our students and mentees and yet research shows we still fail to do this with certain student demographics. By examining the methods used in these 4 programs, participants in this presentation will leave with a better knowledge of factors that enhance, or impede, learning when working with target populations.

Participants will be able to:

  • Review a sampling of mentoring challenge/success stories from different programs and through discussion pick out common themes and patterns,
  • Compare their identified themes and patterns against collected data from stories contributed by different programs.
  • Analyze how to apply findings to their own interpreter training methods and curriculum to better support students from marginalized populations.

A white woman with short brown hair wearing a white blouse smiles at camera in front of black backgroundChristine Multra Kraft, CDI, ASLTA Professional is the Community Programs and Initiatives Director for Sorenson Interpreter Education & Professional Development. ASL and interpreting have been her passion for the past 25 years. A former Assistant Professor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, her research interests include conversation dynamics, language acquisition and using linguistic scholarship to boost language and interpreting skill development. Christine lives near Indianapolis with her husband Roger, mostly-out-of-nest children, and the lovable but dopey Tux E Dog.

A black woman with shoulder length braids wearing a red dress and silver necklace and glasses stands in front of window smilingCarla Shird is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She has expertise in providing workshops, consultation, mentorship, and mental health counseling including working with ASL users. She is passionate about helping people to create self-awareness, self-care, and becoming more connected with themselves, others, and their purposes.

A black woman with shoulder length black hair wearing a purple blouse smiles at the cameraValerie McMillan is an Only Hearing Child of Deaf Adults (OH CODA) (3deaf siblings born after her). She is a mother of two beautiful kids Jaylen and Madison. She graduated from Barton College receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Educational Interpreting with a concentration in Deaf Education in 1998. She is currently in her second year in the MAISCE Program at St. Catherine University (graduation May 22, 2020). She has been a professional sign language interpreter since 1995. Currently, she is the Director of the Greenville Center of 11 years. She is the Lead Advisor for the African American Advisory Committee at Sorenson. She is involved in the COMPASS Program by being the co-lead for the Bridge (phase 4) component, mentor in phase 3, facilitator for Open House meetings, and a part of the Navigation Team. She also serves as a hearing mentor in the Deaf Interpreter Academy for Deaf People of Color at Sorenson. She is a very active member within this field. She sits on numerous boards and has served as an officer in many organizations (National Alliance of Black Interpreters (NAOBI, INC), former Chair of the NC Interpreter/Transliterators Licensing Board, IDP Region II Rep, Eastern Region ITOC Rep, Wilson Community College Advisory ITP Board, and Eastern NC School For the Deaf Advisory Council.

close up photo of a white woman with black and grey wavy hair wearing an orange shirt and red lipstickBabetta Popoff (CI/NIC) has worked with Sorenson Communications since July of 2009 when she started as a VI in the Orlando center. After having served in center and district level management positions, she joined the IEPD team as the Program Manager of Heritage Learner Training and Development in 2018. Nationally certified with 30 years of experience, Babetta has worked in diverse settings including K-12, post-secondary education, mental health, and performance interpreting venues. With a background in psychology and sociology, she developed training and delivers workshops on compassion strain for interpreters as well as self-care and resilience. As a mentor and instructor, she worked with the University of North Florida Interpreter Education Project, a grant funded program for K-12 Interpreters in the State of Florida, to provide workshops and mentoring opportunities throughout the state. In her current role, she specializes in the design of distance learning instruction and mentoring opportunities for Heritage Language users of ASL. Babetta earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Services from Belhaven University, and is a Graduate Student in University of North Carolina Charlotte’s Learning, Development and Technology program.

A black woman with shoulder length black hair smiles at camera in front of brick wallErica West Oyedele, MA, NIC, Director of Instruction of Project CLIMB-University of Northern Colorado and Interpreter Preparation Program Director at American River College, has been a practitioner of ASL/English interpreting since 2004 working primarily as an independent contractor in government, business, and medical settings. She holds a Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies with an emphasis in teaching from Western Oregon University. Erica’s research interests include analyzing the dynamics of power, privilege, and social justice within the signed language profession and increasing the persistence of interpreters of color within the field. Erica lives in Sacramento, CA with her husband, Dare, their daughter, Amina, their Labrador retriever, Hailey, and two stray cats who have also made their place home. Erica identifies as a proud, Black Interpreter.

A white woman with shoulder length grey hair wearing a grey sweater and black blouse smiles at the camera.Amy Williamson, MA, CI, CT, SC:L, Ed: K-12. Amy holds a Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies with an emphasis in Pedagogy from Western Oregon University and is currently a Ph.D. student in Interpreting with an emphasis in Research at Gallaudet University. She is the Director of Academic Programs and Initiatives with Sorenson Communications and Director of Administration for Project CLIMB at the University of Northern Colorado. Amy has conducted research on interpreting in mediated education, legal settings, and interpreters who are native bilingual-bimodals (Codas). Amy and her husband, Bill, live in Montpelier, VT with Amy’s two sons, Otis and Ben, their Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Polly, and their incredibly mischievous cat, Loki. They also occasionally house their three adult children; Mika, Katie, and Billy who are continuing to find their place in the world.