Dr. Suzette Garay, National Speaker, Instructor
Tell me about your job. How did you get into this line of work?
My primary work is teaching. I teach the following Psychology, ASL, and Parent/Infants (hearing pre-verbal babies) to utilize sign language before they speak. My desires to teach be it in a school, college, and/or private practice has been a long-standing dream of mine since I was in high school. My decision to become a teacher comes from experiencing my own personal frustrations, lack of access to information, and/or discrimination to participate in opportunities due to poor special education services or no interpreters llowed in my classes back then in 1970′s.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing how children are inspired, motivated, and determined to excel after knowing it is possible (role model) when their teacher standing before them has done it.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
-Convincing parents that all things are possible even if their child cannot hear or has something lacking or limiting them learning in the same way most children learn.
-Convincing people that I am worthy of my expertise when it comes to making profound decisions on a child’s life or deciding whether or not a child can learn with the best informed-choices that are available. Sometimes, people have preconceived notions of what children with disabilities can or cannot do.
-Avoiding the labels of being “exceptional”, “gifted”, “genius”, “having all the answers,” etc… sometimes people try to put me on high pedestal for being the ideal Deaf, woman with Ph.D., First Latina, and/or overcoming adversity when I just want to be that “normal” person who worked hard to achieve what I had to overcome.
-Meeting the needs or demands of the expectations people assume you can provide all the answers or hope for their child in need. So many people are desperate for your services or inspiration, but you can’t meet everyone’s need. Your only one person with so many hours available to help others. Sometimes, you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others.
What was it like growing up deaf/hard of hearing?
My journey as a deaf child was very unusual than most would people would endure in their childhood. First, even though I was born profoundly deaf, my deafness was not identified till I was almost 13 years old. This is mostly due to the fact that I was shuffled through the welfare/foster care system which moved me in and out of more than 16 foster homes. This means that on the average I lived with the families approximately 90 days or so. When there was an opportunity to consider a possible hearing loss I was already moving onto another home. Those first 13 years of my life were an incredible journey of exploring, learning, and understanding the world around me.
After the 13 years, I finally had the right to be deaf and it changed the perceptions of how others would view me. Some were good and some were bad perceptions of what I could or couldn’t do as a deaf child. I loved music, in the sense of feeling the vibrations and often would be in the hands of authorities for “disturbing the neighbors” for blasting music so I could enjoy it. Schools became more restricted with learning, participating, and being treated differently with lower expectations of what I could learn or do because I was deaf or came from a lower social-economic background or simply because I was “too bright” has a handicap child.
Most of last 5 years of schooling was devoted to speech therapy, auditory rehab due years of needing to catch up. This resulted in lost opportunities to participate in sports or extra-curricular activities that
hearing students had.
What advice would you give a deaf/hard of hearing person who is looking for a career like yours?
-Never take NO for an answer!
-Always believe in yourself and only you can determine what you want to be
or do in your life (no one should decide for you).
-Have lots of patience with people who don’t understand your intentions to
excel in whatever you want to do.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be grateful when others do help you.
-Never forget where you came from or your shortcomings so you can always be glad to help others when they are in need, especially if you are going to teach the little ones who will be looking up to you.
-Pick the right college that will give you the most support not just the name of the school because it’s popular.
-Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe is the right thing to do even if it is not the most popular thing others want you to do.