Monday, October 2, 2006

Lori Woods: Communicator extraordinaire

When you see the "choreography" of an interpreter, it may seem they are moving to the beat of their own music. In fact, they are visually expressing the words of another.

Lori Woods, adjunct faculty in Interpreting and Transliterating and Distinguished Teaching Award winner, teaches our students this "dance" and how to paint a visual picture of the hearing world for the deaf.

Living in a hearing world when your world is silent might seem like a hardship for many, but for Lori it's the only life she's known. As a deaf individual, she has the perfect perspective to teach hearing individuals about the deaf community and ASL.

Growing up she attended school with many friends who were hearing. When she began commuting from Chillicothe to the Alexander Graham Bell School for the Deaf in Columbus, she says the teachers used an oral approach to deaf education. "Sign language was not permitted," says Lori. "I was in an environment where the teachers did not use sign language. If you were caught signing, you were disciplined."

"We were taught to speak and read lips," says Lori of her tight knit family--she has two great aunts and a brother who are deaf as well. Her dad was good at gesturing, and the family had its own invented sign language. "My mom called it 'communicator' and would sign every single word," Lori says.

She didn't learn American Sign Language (ASL) until she went to the all-deaf college National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. It was there she learned instead of signing every single word, that ASL uses words to get the overall message across.

In 1984, she entered Columbus State as a student and after two years earned an accounting degree.

"When I filled out the Columbus State application, it asked me if I had a handicap. Since I couldn't hear, I checked that I did," says Lori. When she went to Disability Services, they asked her if she needed an interpreter. Laughingly she says, "I could speak English, and I thought they meant a foreign language interpreter and I said 'no.'"

When she went to Disability Services, they asked her if she needed an interpreter. Laughingly she says, "I could speak English, and I thought they meant a foreign language interpreter and I said 'no.'"

In 1992, when ASL was recognized as a foreign language, she decided to learn to teach ASL. She didn't take any formal classes, but taught herself. She worked in the community teaching ASL for several years when a faculty member met her and encouraged her teach at Columbus State.

"I found the idea of teaching at the college level intimidating," Lori says, but she gave it a shot and joined Columbus State in 1999 teaching ASL III.

Since then, she has taught ASL II, III, IV, and V, Advanced Conversational ASL, Fingerspelling, History of the Deaf Community, and Introduction to the Deaf Community.

Many students feel intimidated when they find out on the first day of one of Lori's class, that after their initial meeting there will be no interpreter and no talking allowed in class. This soon changes, and many students say when they weren't allowed to talk that they actually learned more.

"The most beneficial things about her class are not being able to speak and having an actual deaf teacher," says a student. "Enforcing the no talking rule helps a lot because it forces us to use what we know."

"My classes are not teacher centered," Lori says. When she's signing in class, she tries to make sure all students are following along, and when her students are signing, she watches them closely to make sure they are progressing correctly. She even spends one-on-one time with students if necessary.

"She made a huge effort to explain concepts we didn't understand and would patiently explain something over and over until everyone understood it," says the student who nominated her for the award. Another says she is "easy to understand" and can "break things down" so they are understandable.

"I take great pride in my work and strive every day to bring energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to my classroom," Lori says.

Her students say her classes are enjoyable because she always attends class with a smile and a great sense of humor. She also uses games and group practices "to hone student's skills," stresses interaction with the deaf community, sends students on "silent dinners" to practice their skills, and uses many hands-on activities such as having students become characters in a story they are signing.

In her classes, Lori says she teaches the five Cs of the deaf community: the Connection between the deaf and hearing; the differences between deaf and hearing Cultures; what the deaf Community is like; a Comparison of the English language and ASL, how you can move between the two, and how to communicate in both; and the Communication of written English.

An example of the cultural differences between deaf and hearing communities, she explains, is that at a deaf social event, it is acceptable to walk through a conversation. To say excuse me, it is appropriate to touch someone and move them.

Her students say, "I like getting the deaf perspective from someone that is deaf," and "It is such a reward to have a professor that is deaf."

"Some recent accomplishments I am most proud of are the development and coordination of the ASL Lab, the student organization 'ASL Connection,' which I started and am the academic advisor, and the successful mentorship of new instructors," says Lori.

Since summer 2005, Lori coordinates a Silent Weekend for interpreting and ASL students. Held four times a year, students go camping at an Ohio state park with members of the deaf community to become immersed in their world. The weekend has four simple rules: enjoy traditional camping activities, meet new people, make new friends, and don't talk.

Her students say, "I like getting the deaf perspective from someone that is deaf," and "it is such a reward to have a professor that is deaf."

Throughout the weekend, only visual means of communication--ASL, gesturing, fingerspelling, writing notes, using word processors and laptop computers--are allowed. Through the process, students not only gain valuable experience with the language, but build a sense of family, which is a big part of the deaf community. By immersing themselves in a different mode of communicating, behaving, and thinking, the students realize what myths about deafness are still present in the hearing community.

In March, she traveled with 16 students to Puerto Rico to visit four schools for the deaf. "The schools thought I was coming with deaf students, not hearing students," she says. "I know a few signs outside of ASL, but it was fun to learn a different language along the way." In addition to learning about their school system, Lori gave a presentation on ASL and Columbus State.

"She is a wonderful instructor," says a student. "Lori obviously loves teaching her language and makes her students love learning it."

In response, Lori says "I hope that students leave my class with an understanding and appreciation of my language, a respect for my culture and community, and a shared desire to be lifelong learners."

When she's not teaching at Columbus State, Lori enjoys golfing, camping, kayaking and gardening. She also says she's a retired softball player.


TRiO Mentoring Program seeks mentors

TRiO-Student Support Services is currently seeking staff and faculty members to mentor Columbus State students.

The Student Support Services (SSS) Mentoring Program's mission is to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for current SSS participants. The program matches Columbus State SSS students with professional or peer mentors to help them make the transition and adjustment to college life. The mentors provide additional support for these students and introduce them to academic ideologies and organizations.

Faculty and staff members interested in becoming mentors need to:

How are mentors and protégés matched? Based on "speed dating" principles, "speed mentoring" allows mentors and protégés to become acquainted with each other. Students, staff, and faculty meet on campus, and after each five-minute conversation, rotate to meet another participant. Once all conversations have finished, participants indicate on a private "match card" who they would like to become their mentor or protégé. If both parties agree, each person receives a notice from the Student Support Services office when the mentoring relationship will begin.

A speed mentoring session will be held October 13, from 12:30-2 p.m. in Nestor Hall Seminar Room C.

For more information, contact Dale Gresson, advisor in Student Support Services, at 287-5532.


Donations accepted for Coats for Columbus

Sky Bank and the Salvation Army are collecting new and gently used coats as part of the Coats for Columbus campaign. Until October 11, you can donate coats at any Sky Bank, Columbus Fire Station, or Columbus Metropolitan Library.

For more information, call 614-221-6561.


Kamau receives Ohioana Career Award

Kojo Kamau, adjunct faculty in Marketing, won the 2006 Ohioana Career Award for his 40-plus distinguished years as a photographer. The Ohioana Career Award, the oldest and most prestigious award given by the Ohioana Library Association, is given annually to a native Ohioan for outstanding professional accomplishments in the arts and humanities.

Kamau's work depicts everything from civil unrest in the 1960s to the African landscape and the daily lives of its inhabitants. He has also taken portraits of notable figures such as Elijah Pierce, Jesse Jackson, Aminah Robinson and Maya Angelou.

On his Web site, Kamau says, "Photography allows me the opportunity to communicate with the world. Educating, dispelling myths and enlightening people through photography as an art form has always been my interest."

Locally, his work can be seen in the permanent collections of the Columbus Museum of Art.

Kamau will receive his award on October 14 from the Ohioana Library Association as part of their Ohioana Day at the State Library of Ohio.