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Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Translator Breaks Barriers

By Harold Reutter

Birdie Lopez breaks down barriers.

Her official job title is translator at Dodge Elementary.

Typically, that job entails translating parent letters into Spanish, making telephone calls to the homes of Spanish-speaking families, or being at school to do verbal translation for staff members.








Finding out what's wrong, translator Birdie Lopez (left) talks to kindergartner Carlo Ramos (right) as he is comforted by his teacher, Rhonda Hillman, at Dodge Elementary School in Grand Island. On his second day of school, Ramos was missing his older brother and had an upset stomach after eating some broccoli. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)
Michelle Walker, school social worker at Dodge Elementary, said many translators in the Grand Island school system take their jobs quite literally: They do a word-for-word translation of whatever the English staff member is saying.

But Walker said she can tell that when Lopez translates, she does not limit herself to exact translations and nothing more. She said Lopez is also assessing the parents' reactions and deciding whether additional questions need to be asked to clarify the situation.

That is one example of Lopez breaking down barriers.

Walker said she is glad Lopez takes such initiative because it typically results in questions being asked that she never would have thought of on her own. As a result, Walker learns information that would never have become available if not for Lopez's help.

Such initiative is why Lopez was named the Non-teaching Staff Member of the Year during the all-staff assembly on Aug. 12 for the Grand Island Public Schools.

Nomination letters for Lopez noted that she functions more as an additional social worker at Dodge Elementary than a translator.

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