Students hustling to class. Kids yelling across the halls to one another. Loud screams at pep assemblies. These are sounds missing from the life of junior Shanda Ginter as she attends Sandpoint High School.
For the first time in recent Sandpoint school history, a deaf student is attending with an interpreter. Stacey Glines goes to all Shanda’s classes with her, as well as other activities.
“Life’s OK here,” Shanda said through her interpreter, “but sometimes it is really difficult for me to figure out what people are saying.”
With a little help and a good attitude, day-to-day activity isn’t much out of the ordinary for Shanda.
“I use an interpreter who tells me what’s going on,” Shanda explains. “I also have a few good friends who know how to sign.”
She also has a student take notes for her in history class so she can watch her interpreter.
Shanda was born deaf; doctors think it was probably because she was born early, before her hearing could develop properly.
Her family first noticed she couldn’t hear when she was an infant.
“When I was about two months old, my mom came in when I was awake and she thought I heard her footsteps when she walked in,” Shanda said. When her mom touched her on the shoulder, she noticed the young child was startled by her presence.
Her parents quickly took Shanda to the doctor, only to find out she was profoundly deaf.
Life isn’t completely absent of sound for Shanda, however. With the assistance of a hearing aid, some noises ring faintly in her head - if they’re loud enough.
“I know a tiny bit what things sound like,” Shanda said. She can also feel the vibrations of music and is able to take pleasure in dancing.
With no experiences to base it on, Shanda isn’t sure if her other senses are enhanced by her absence of hearing.
“I guess (they’re strengthened),” she said with a shrug. “I don’t know. That’s what people tell me. Sometimes I’ll see things before other people do.”
“I’ve noticed she has really good peripheral vision,” Glines added.
In her first year at Sandpoint, Shanda is involved in several activities. She’s active in DECA, where she serves lattes to waiting customers at school. Shanda also participates in the solar energy grant project.
Each day, after leaving school, Shanda said she keeps herself busy with everything from snowboarding to “getting in trouble.” Her math teacher, Tom Albertson, is impressed with her attitude and performance in class.
“She participates in class a lot and asks a lot of questions,” he said. “I was a little fearful at first because I knew absolutely nothing about sign language. It’s been a learning experience for me.”
Glines said she also has learned a lot from attending classes with Shanda.
She’s been helping her for four years now. The two have developed a strong relationship and have come to know each other well in that time. Glines doesn’t live with Shanda, however; she’s an employee of Bonner County School District.
“We have fun together,” Glines says. “We try to make it fun.”
With lips silently voicing the enlightened words of the teacher, while her nimble hands quickly tell the story, Glines assists Shanda in her classes by sitting in front of her and translating what is being said.
After many years of signing, Glines found her practice of signing what’s being said has become a habit.
“I’ll go to the market and say, ‘How much does this cost?’ and forget to voice (talk),” she said.
Signing, considered a foreign language, is not done word-for-word like most people believe. Glines really enjoys working with Shanda and the Sandpoint staff.
“I love what I do,” she explained. “Being an interpreter is a great job.”
For both Shanda and her interpreter, pep assemblies and class discussions prove to be the most challenging aspect of school. Often, by the time Glines relays what’s being said in a class discussion, the debate has moved on.
“It’s hard to see what everyone’s saying,” Shanda said. “Things are going too fast.”
Shanda’s life at home isn’t much out of the ordinary for most teens. Her whole family signs.
“I’m getting a deaf dog, so I’m going to be teaching it sign language,” she added, smiling. “I’ll be teaching it how to sit.”
Shanda has other interests as well. She won Miss Congeniality and second runner-up in a Miss Deaf Idaho Teen pageant and plans to enter Miss Deaf Idaho in 1997. She hopes to be an actress someday.
Shanda has received many different reactions from people. Some have attempted to talk and even flirt with her and another deaf friend without knowing the two can’t hear.
“Sometimes people will be talking to us and they don’t realize we’re deaf and they’ll get a strange look on their face,” she said. “The worst is when they stare.”
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