Nineteen Dalton Public Schools employees, including family engagement coordinators, school secretaries and administrative staff, completed a six-week Professional Interpreter Course. DPS partnered with the University of Georgia to offer the class, with some face-to-face instruction, as well as online work.
Dr. Tim Scott, superintendent, said effective communication with parents is one of the district's most important challenges. "Our interpreters are a critical bridge between the school district and those parents who do not speak English," he said. "Our interpreters are passionate and dedicated to helping our families, and their commitment to advance their skills and enhance the service they provide is evident by their completion of this 30-hour course."
The class provided professional tips on serving as an interpreter in meetings with parents and taught new education-related vocabulary.
The district has wanted to provide the class for several years. Director of School Support Caroline Woodason said, "We think the course adds value to our district by enhancing the level of professionalism from our staff and by supporting our families and community members who need help overcoming language barriers."
One example of a useful lesson learned was how to give a pre-session briefing before a meeting begins. Here, an interpreter explains what his or her role is in the facilitation and what to expect and not expect from their services.
Dalton Middle School Secretary Illiana Martinez said she used this tip during an Individualized Education Program meeting for a student (IEP) shortly after enrolling in the class. "I was complimented by our Director of Exceptional Student Services Amy Bowers. She told me it was very professional and she appreciated that addition to the IEP," she said. "This was a very important meeting and that simple extra step really helped."
Family Engagement Coordinator Raquel Cardona said the class helped her grow as a professional. "I have been doing this job for a long time, but after completing the course, I realized some mistakes I have been making," she explained. "Now, I think I can do my job even better."
The district recently held a reception for the newly certified interpreters and Dr. Scott presented each of the interpreters with their completion certificate and a DPS notebook to use in their work.