FRCC Faculty Signs for President Obama in Denver

Photo by Joe Amon, Denver Post

Susan Faltinson has been a freelance interpreter for the deaf in many settings and on many stages, but never before has she interpreted for the President of the United States. Until now.

Susan, who is on the Interpreter Preparation Program (IPP) faculty at the Westminster Campus at Front Range Community College, was President Obama’s interpreter during his speech on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver.

It’s Deaf Awareness Month.

“Having this assignment during Deaf Awareness Month is more than coincidence,” Susan said. “It is important to be inclusive at public events. Deaf people are very involved in the world, and interpreters are constantly striving to meet their expectations as professionals and leaders in the community.”

An estimated 600,000 people in the United States are functionally deaf.

American Sign Language is a recognized foreign language.

“American Sign Language (ASL) is fully recognized in Colorado as a foreign language,” Susan said. “It has its own grammar, its own syntax, and even its own jokes.

“As a non-native learner of ASL, I’ll be forever learning the nuances — more richness and more depth of meaning that you continue to appreciate over time.”

Susan’s journey to the presidential setting started when she was a student in FRCC’s Interpreter Preparation Program. She had an internship as an interpreter for the City and County of Denver. After graduating in 1997, she accepted freelance assignments from Denver government. Through an interpretive agency she accepted an assignment at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Of course, he was Senator Obama then.

Susan’s career Path did not start in interpretation.

After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, Susan worked as a director of Easter Seals Camps in Wisconsin and Colorado for six years.

While supervising a deaf woman, she fell in love with American Sign Language again, having learned the language as a young girl. She enrolled in FRCC’s Interpreter Preparation Program and graduated in 1997.

Since graduating, Susan has worked as a freelance interpreter in many areas, including medical, legal, mental health, religious, educational, performing arts, platform, and video relay.

She has taught at FRCC since 2004 and joined the IPP as a full-time faculty member in January 2011.

Susan holds students to a high standard.

As a teacher, Susan holds students to a high standard so that they can best serve the deaf community. She encourages students to never stop learning, and she always strives to find innovative ways and technologies to teach. And now she has a story to tell in class: that of interpreter for the President of the United States.



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John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College.

4 Responses to “FRCC Faculty Signs for President Obama in Denver”

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September 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm, Virginia Knoki-June said:

Is the Navajo language considered a foreign language and is it possible to use the ASL modality to assist the Navajo citizens who might be deaf. Maybe there is a methodology to assist the Navajo people who might benefit.

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October 05, 2011 at 2:49 pm, John Feeley said:

Hi Virginia,
I asked some of our Interpreter Preparation faculty, and they tell me that there is a Navajo Sign Language that is very distinct from ASL. While it might have some common signs that are more picture-based in nature (like animals), it has its own distinct grammar, syntax, etc. It is not a language we teach at Front Range. I hope this helps you.

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October 02, 2011 at 8:06 am, Stephanie Ratzell said:

How inspiring!

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October 12, 2011 at 9:06 am, Michaele Charles said:

Great post, John. What an exciting thing for Susan to interpret for Obama, too.