The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Instructor converts interpreting skills into teaching

By Marley Malenfant/feature editor

Part three in a five-part series on winners of the Chancellor’s Award for Exemplary Teaching, an annual recognition of professors who impress and inspire their students.

Allison Randolph won an award for doing a job she almost turned down nine years ago.

Originally a middle school teacher, Randolph taught math and deaf education for three years.

“I was a certified interpreter for a long time,” she said. “Several people contacted me about the position. I kind of didn’t want to, but what a great decision I made.”

From childhood, Randolph has always seen the lifestyle of a deaf person. Her parents and sister were deaf. Randolph said her parents’ deafness didn’t derail her childhood.

Instead, it influenced her career early in life. Randolph became a certified interpreter after she graduated high school.

“Growing up, I was bilingual,” she said. “I knew American Sign Language and English. To me, it was a normal childhood. We had flashing lights in the house if someone rang the doorbell or the phone rang. That was different to my friends.”

Randolph paid her way through college interpreting full time 11 years before teaching. When she became a teacher, Randolph thought she’d always teach math. She said years of interpreting prepared her to teach sign language. 

“I don’t know if I ever wanted to be an interpreter,” she said. “It was an opportunity that presented itself. And I think I’m very good at it, not to sound arrogant.”

During classes, Randolph doesn’t say much. Her students guide the class. Unlike math, Randolph said sign language needs to be engaging and the students must be social with each other.

“I don’t like to lecture,” she said. “I try to keep it very student-focused. When I teach American Sign Language, it’s all taught in sign language. We don’t use spoken English. We do a lot of activities. If I sign to them for two-and-a-half hours, they’d all fall asleep. I tell them ahead of time, ‘You’re going to get up here with me, and you’re going to sign in front of the class.’”

Randolph encourages her students to share personal experiences. They sometimes get emotional. She feels students continue to take her classes because they can trust her.

“We have the opportunity to get to know our students on a more personal level,” she said. “We have them for eight classes. Even though we push them very hard and sometimes we make them cry, they know that everything we ask them to do is for their own good. They can come to us at any time. We have that time to build a relationship, which technical programs can do.”

TR student Kristi Lauritzen, who has taken five classes in the interpreting program, said Randolph is sure to make her students participate in the classroom.

“She’ll make us talk about our childhood, where you went to school, just to break the ice,” she said. “She is able to get the message across in a way you can pick it up.”

TR student Denise Mills, who has spent two years in the interpreting program, said Randolph, at times, can come off as a perfectionist.

“She is not afraid to show you where you’re making mistakes,” she said. “Her classes are hard, but she gives such good feedback.”

Randolph is tough on shy students. She points out that to do well in the program, students must be outgoing.

She said she tries to relate to those shy students by telling stories of her childhood. Randolph said she was very shy until she got to college.

“Being in this field, you have to talk,” she said. “And I can relate to those shy students. We force them to put themselves out there but in a safe environment. They know if they mess up, it’s OK. The best place to make mistakes is the classroom.”

TR student Rachel Langston has taken three classes in the interpreting program. Before changing her major, Langston was interested in radiology.

“My second semester, I took her class, and you could just see her passion and love for the students,” she said. “That’s what made me change my degree plan. She also encourages us to give back to the community. It’s like family with her.”

Not all of Randolph’s students become certified interpreters. She said many students go into other fields but have communication skills they can use for another career.

“I remember one student went through the entire program and decided, ‘I don’t want to be an interpreter,’” she said. “She’s now a Dallas police officer. Now, I know there’s at least one Dallas officer who can sign proficiently. If they pull over a deaf person, they can communicate.

“I feel like even though we may not have 100 students graduate in the interpreting program every year, we are impacting many lives.”

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