An ASL leader

Tami Grant wins Interpreter of the Year for her 'commitment to the deaf community'

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Tami Grant, an American Sign Language teacher at Washougal High School, was recently named Interpreter of the Year for Sorenson Communications. Here, she works with her students on songs for their end of the year show.

When Tami Grant headed into the offices of Sorenson Communications on March 6, she was expecting a routine staff meeting.

But that day was anything but routine.

Grant, who works as an American Sign Language interpreter, found out she had been named Sorenson Communications 2013 Interpreter of the Year for the Western Region.

Grant is also a full-time American Sign Language teacher at Washougal High School.

“I walked into the room, and they announced that someone in our center had won, and that it was me,” she said. “There was a lot of emotion. I was totally in shock because I work with some really fantastic interpreters. Being nominated by my peers was awesome.”

Sorenson Communications is the largest employer of ASL interpreters. Grant has worked there for five years, in addition to her teaching duties. Her office is a part of the Western Region, which includes 32 offices in locations from Portland to Chicago.

She is the first interpreter from the Northwest to win the honor.

Chris Wakeland, vice president of interpreting, announced Grant as the winner, saying she was chosen in part for her commitment to the deaf community in and outside of her work at Sorenson.

“She is a full time ASL high school teacher, where her students respect and admire her,” he said. “She directs four ASL productions a year, giving students the opportunity to show off their skills to the community.”

He added that several of Grant’s former students work for Sorenson, which indicates her leadership outside of the center.

Grant feels grateful that she can share the career aspect of the language with her high school students.

“I think it is cool that we are teaching a technical education, not just a world language with ASL,” she said.

Sorenson Communications uses a video relay system, which allows the deaf and hard-of-hearing community to communicate with both deaf and hearing family, friends or business contacts. It is a free, 24-hour service. In addition, the service allows hearing callers to communicate with deaf individuals as well.

Grant’s job gives her the opportunity to provide students with insight into the industry and a chance to learn about technology in use to assist the deaf and hard of hearing.

“I can also bring back real examples of the importance of team work in a job,” she said.

For example, when severe winter weather shut down East Coast centers, and school was canceled at Washougal, Grant got a hotel room and went to work to cover for those centers not able to open.

“Everyone has a right to communication, even when the weather is bad and it is difficult to provide the service,” she said.

Along with a certificate, Grant was awarded a travel voucher and plans to take her children on a vacation to Disney World.

“They have sacrificed a lot in order to for me to have two jobs, and I am thrilled to be able to do this,” she said.