Changemaker profile: Professor Valerie Ward

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By: Valerie Ward

By: Alison Chodak,

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Professor Valerie Ward loves to interpret sign language for the Deaf community. The moment she knew she wanted to interpret sign language was when she had a friend in middle school who was deaf, and she saw her interpreting sign language. At that point in her life, she dedicated her time to learning how to sign and communicate with deaf people which her parents fully support. Her mother said that they knew she’d work to bring people together.

In 2010, she graduated from Frontier Central High School and pursued undergraduate school at the University of Rochester. There she’d study American Sign Language and Japanese, which included a semester in Japan. According to Ward, it changed her whole perspective on culture and influenced her study in American Sign Language.

After graduating from the University of Rochester, she got two jobs and is now attending graduate school online at Spokane Falls Community College to earn her Masters degree in American Sign Language. Her two jobs are teaching at Niagara University and a freelance interpreter for the Buffalo Area.

Ward said she loves teaching at Niagara University because the staff is so helpful and supportive. She wants her students to understand how to have a basic interaction with deaf people, and doesn’t want deaf people to be isolated from people who can hear. She also wants to thank Nanette Harmon for bringing her in and teaching at NU. Ward describes it as a “great mistake.” As her students know she loves to finger spell because it sounds sillier.

In the next five years, she hopefully will continue to be teaching at NU and interpreting in the Buffalo area. On a final note, she also hopes to build a family in the near future.

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