Born in the City of New York – The Bronx.
I was born hearing and had an ear infection that triggered hearing loss and raised in the city of The Bronx in one-bedroom apartment with just my mother–that has always been my story. I’ve always seen and knew how half of us as New York City residents struggle economically, make ends meet just barely, if at all, and most of us always feel this sharp uncertainty about the future, at least, it was for me growing up. For one, I was born to Deaf parents who moved to America from Puerto Rico. Both families were poor as my father’s side works as the landlord of a project apartment in the South area of the Bronx. My mother’s side is from the military. Both of my deaf parents met each other at an oral school called “P.S. 47” public school in Manhattan. Both of my parents’ families speak Spanish. Come to think of this… imagine all of the communication, language barrier and not to mention, different cultures all combined in one family when both of my parents married each other. But, after turning one-year-old and my older sister, Jasmine, who is also deaf, at age five, both of my parents separated then eventually divorced.
Life as of the Hard-of-Hearing Child and How I Unconsciously Code-Switch Two Languages and Modalities.
When I lost my hearing at 18 months old due to an ear infection. I had residual hearing that wearing a hearing aid, for me, is like from hearing completely nothing – no sounds to hearing absolutely everything! I embraced hearing and speaking. I loved going to speech classes during my school days. I’d sing like how I recorded my own voice signing in the speech classroom all by myself, now imagine those who really heard me singing across the elementary hallway!
But, when I didn’t want to hear… it was always my advantage, to have the choice to turn off my hearing aid, hear no sound, be completely deaf.
What resource I had growing up as a city young girl, I could call my parents through the Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS), which is actually through the relay operator who would voice and translate in English for my parents via TTY. Also, I remember how almost all the time, I would be called to interpret for my older sister and parents at appointments, restaurants, movie theatres, many more. I also remember how my parents always said the youngest child “hard-of-hearing” and “very, very smart who can speak very well” when introducing me and my older sister to other people (poor my sister of having to grow up being compared to my abilities). So, all my growing years, I have always talked with my voice and sign but little did I know it is what we call “code switching”. I now understand why using both language at the same time is always a challenge because both language have different grammatical functions and rules. Therefore, the influence of speaking values that my deaf parents from their spilled over to how they raised me and my sister. Looking back, it is, indeed quite interesting that I do not see this life experience of an interesting mix of values in both worlds – hearing and deaf, as a bad thing but has become a resource for me in what I can use every day, especially, with my four CODA children and, of course, my love for music, always!
Love for Music & Discovering ASL/Deaf Culture – Understanding & Navigating Both Worlds.
Since I mentioned my love for music. For me, music has always hold a connection to sound because I can hear, appreciate the sound of music, which grew that inner value for sound the of music. I love to listen to music (over many times), read lyrics to make connections and sign the words without realizing what it means to translate into a conceptually accurate in ASL. I also love to dance!
I knew many songs that were back in 80’s and 90’s, which were songs that are easier to follow compared to our music nowadays. The more I learn about ASL as its own language, I realized it a challenge to translate the actual meaning when signing a song because there are many different ways that depend on meaning. Then, we have to consider how words are interpreted and expressed in order to successfully deliver the same way from one language to another.
During college, I studied to be a Social Worker and the more I learned about my identity, who I really am and how I discovered ASL and Deaf culture through courses and workshops I attended. That alone, opened my eyes to the world of a human being I am. Many cultural and language conflicts in terms of how we use of ASL became a clear structure of how two languages that I equally value has stronger influence with how we bend both cultures into our way of life and because that’s how we all learn to evolve to be who we all are as individuals.
Professional Journey as a Deaf Educator and Leader.
As soon as I graduated Gallaudet University with my Bachelors in Social Work. I went back to New York City for one year working as the Deaf Service Coordinator at the Bronx Independent Services. I also had a part-time job as a G.E.D. instructor for LaGuardia Community College. That’s when I found my love for teaching, which then I went back to school, studied and received my Masters in Deaf Education. I was also working night shifts as a residential counselor for high school deaf students. After having my 3 boys in two years as I had a set of twins after my first born being at 20 months old.
I accepted a position as the Co-Director/ASL Lead Faculty of the ASL/Interpreting Preparation Program in Denver, Colorado. There, I learned so much more about the culture, language, history of our community and how we, the deaf people, are outsiders of the hearing society. I also learned how we all are raised with different backgrounds and education experience that brings the uniqueness even more in the Deaf community that’s within the larger community in the hearing world.
During my 5 years living in Texas, I was employed as parent infant program teacher at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin before I landed a Director position with the Gallaudet University Regional Center – Southwest when it first opened and based in Austin Community College. Five years later, I was offered the K-12 Principal position at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind in Colorado Springs. After years of teaching and administrating in the education field and do an extensive outreach work at the center, I knew there is still a serious huge gap in the connection of our people, our community and the resources that we must access to but I didn’t have any answer to this huge issue that deeply impacts every deaf individual.
Three years ago, during the National Academic Bowl at Gallaudet University, I sat next to Karen Putz. I brought up my concerns about deaf and hard of hearing students who were showing severe delays with language and learning. During our conversation, I remember vividly how Karen was very straightforward about lack of centralized information and resources for parents with deaf children. Karen also mentioned how serious of a problem that is if we (Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults) continue to not be connected to those hearing parents with deaf children, we will continue to have challenges now that 98% of deaf children have hearing parents.
In other terms, we must change how we do things. That conversation never left my mind because I already knew and believed that as a huge and serious gap, which impacts many, many deaf children and how they live life and ultimately, become a productive adult that may come to question. It’s the connection. Fast forward. Three years has passed. Karen and I reunited at the Hands and Voice Leadership Conference in Estes Park, Colorado discussing about Veditz, a solution I created for deaf and hard of hearing children and their families! Veditz is the first online, mobile, on-demand and live interactive video chat tutoring platform for the deaf and hearing who wants to learn ASL or are simply visual learners regardless of where they are or what device they’re using – PC, Mac, Chromebook, or Apple iOS or Android smartphone or tablet devices! Deaf students, including, deaf and hearing people can now get tutoring in many subjects (math, science, ASL, and more!) with tutoring delivered in ASL online in your home! Teachers, professionals, students, parents and their children can use Veditz for FREE to find ASL practice partners and then meet up online on Veditz’ secured platform and conduct live video peer-to-peer ASL practice with each other.
Also, when a child needs help in Algebra, English writing, ASL or something else, Veditz and our hundreds of tutors are at your service. Since our tutors tutor in ASL, it saves costs on having to hire a tutor and interpreter, plus it maximizes quality of tutoring time. Also, come and learn more about our vision on building a Khan-Academy-like for the Deaf similar to our ASL Math Academy is currently featured on our website for free! When Deaf students want an answer in ASL not just English? Our FREE ASL Math Academy has dozens of videos signed in ASL with English CC on Arithmetic, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry and more!
Embracing Life as a Deaf Mother Raising 4 CODAs
In between my career journey after having my baby boy, Caleb, I was hired as the High School Social Studies teacher at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. I learned the value of student connection as a teacher and implement visual learning instructions. After the double “oops” surprise came on the day of 18-week sonogram, I was told that I was carrying twins! In 2005, we had fraternal twins, Tristan and Sebastian, when Caleb was only 20-month-old where many thought I had triplets! Certainly, at age 25, I was shocked but I embraced raising twins. I have learned so much raising my own twins. Evidently, I had my hands full that I decided to stayed home temporarily to raise 3 young boys before I went back to work.
The Impact of Co-Founding Veditz
Leaving the principal job at Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind was not an easy decision yet best decision as the decision has blindly led me to co-founding Veditz! Like I mentioned, I always knew there is a way to fill such a severe gap of “connecting with others”. I never knew how or what it takes to develop such product because I knew it starts with a person with technology expertise to build a platform.
Veditz is going to create an opportunity to break the communication barriers that are often created between the parents and the deaf child. There is no comprehensive program available for learning how to communicate with their deaf child. Veditz is going to provide parents and their deaf children integrated and interactive learning product where is self-paced with practical lessons and activities parents can use as they develop other competences.
As I briefly shared the evolving human identity that I am today as a deaf, woman, Puerto Rican, single mother of four children. I am fortunate that I have been given through different professional opportunities, to be a counselor, a service provider, a coordinator, a classroom teacher, a program administrator, a school administrator, an outreach/ambassador for a University where I will always use as resources and tools to continue navigate in the hearing world. Now that technology is here and sign language is a visual language, putting both together is what validated my deep desire, passion and understanding what it takes to happen for such product to connect, educate, and empower the world’s deaf community.
I am going to be who I am and I will use all tools and resources to live and merge in the hearing world as a deaf adult. My identity has evolved as I was once called “hard-of-hearing” child to simply being deaf. I have and will continue to embrace what it means to be deaf in this world. Most certainly, I will also embrace the gift of being a mother and raising four beautiful hearing children (CODAs).