Stevie Fenton learned sign language when she was young because she had deaf friends.
“It was an accident. In the time before people could become interpreters just because they knew some sign language, I knew sign language because I had deaf friends as a child,” Fenton said.
She has been involved in several occupations. She is currently a senior program consultant at the Florida Department of Education. She has taught in a public school and has a master’s in counseling. One occupation that she continues to do is American Sign Language, or ASL, interpreting. She was trained to become a teacher for the deaf. Where she lived she had many deaf people reach out to her to communicate with others who did not understand sign language.
“I didn’t really know how to interpret, but suddenly I was interpreting,” said Fenton.
There was a huge difference that Fenton was experiencing as the times changed. She noticed that interpreting became a profession and that there were and still are programs for people to learn ASL and become certified interpreters. The programs also teach people about the deaf culture and how to really appreciate it. During her time, this was not the case.
“In the old days, if you weren’t married, you were the teacher for the school. In the old days, if you knew how to fix a broken leg, you were called doctor. In the old days, interpreters didn’t necessarily train for the job, they just kind of did it,” Fenton added.
Fenton has influenced many other people to become interpreters. One ASL interpreter, Tiffani Johnson, has known Fenton for five years. Johnson says she really enjoys learning from Fenton.
“Stevie is an amazing interpreter. I always look forward to any opportunity that I have to team interpret with her. Even from undergrad, there is still so much that I learn and take from our interactions. It doesn’t matter if it is an interpreting-only event or if it is an opportunity to sit down and discuss things going on in the community; I take so much from our interactions each and every time,” Johnson said.
Fenton continues to stay active in the deaf community. Every second Friday of the month, the deaf community of the Big Bend meets at Governor Square Mall, and Fenton goes to interact with them and talk to them.
Fenton plays a big role in the deaf community and she does not see herself changing that at all.