School’s new translator bridges the communication gap


Communication is a two-way street.

In the school system, having positive lines of communication allows students to receive consistency with their education and support both at home and school. It can help their development, learning and overall well-being.

It can be challenging when a student and/or their parents speak little or no English, and so the need to bridge the communication gap increases.

As the number of Spanish-speaking students in Seymour Community School Corp. continues to grow, the need for translators/interpreters has become greater.

Diane Altemeyer, director of federal and state programs, said the most current numbers indicate approximately 40% of the students attending Seymour Community School Corp. list their ethnicity as Hispanic. That number is up from about 37% last year.

The translator at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center left last fall, so the school has been trying to fill that gap for several months.

Principal Loriann Wessel said they have been seeking the right match for quite awhile.

This month, they found the right fit with 21-year-old Isabel Hernandez of Seymour, who started as the school’s new translator on April 14.

Wessel said before Hernandez came along, for the longest time, they kept doing their best and tried to talk to the families by using Google Translate frequently.

“What I’ve noticed right away is we have families that are able to access the school when Isabel’s here,” she said. “It’s often a scary feeling to know you can’t communicate with a student’s parents, and I’m sure the parents feel the same way.”

The percentage of Spanish-speaking students at the school fluctuates weekly, but it averages around 30%, Wessel said.

“I would say a lot of the Hispanic students’ parents will call in, but also, they like to come in and speak face to face,” she said. “So having Isabel here welcomes those families into the school and eases any kind of concerns they might have, and I think it makes them feel more a part of the school culture.”

Hernandez graduated from Seymour High School in 2019 and then started working at JCPenney, where she was a translator. She also has been employed with NTN Driveshaft Inc.

“At NTN, I loaded and unloaded parts, and working at the factory was kind of difficult,” Hernandez said. “The school is a much nicer and cleaner environment.”

Since starting her new job this month, she has been answering the phone, entering information into the computer and speaking to the Spanish-speaking students about the main events taking place at the school.

“I’ve had a couple students ask for me for help, and there is a student who recently started school here and he does not speak English at all,” Hernandez said. “I’ve helped some students speak to the counselor and speak to the assistant principal here, and I’ve also helped the assistant principal speak to some of the parents, as well.”

She said some students write in Spanish but don’t feel comfortable speaking English, and there are some students who speak English, but their parents don’t speak it at all, so she is looking forward to helping the students and their families.

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