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November 22, 2002

Teacher contributes to deaf community

From: Henry County Daily Herald, GA
Nov. 22, 2002

By Diane Wagner
Stephanie Boyd's office next to the Luella Middle School gym is overflowing with frogs.

Most are brightly colored stuffed toys, although there are a few wooden and metal varieties as well.
"I collect them, so I brought one when I came here two years ago," the physical education teacher said. "Now, every frog in there a student has given to me."

It's not surprising the bubbly and energetic former cheerleader has sparked such affection. Students seem to view Boyd as an accessible and enthusiastic taskmaster.
"She's great, a lot of fun," eighth-grader Jenna Engle said as Boyd directed her and classmate Lindsey Spivey in a series of Tae-bo exercises.

Created 20 years ago by Billy Blanks and embraced now by a number of young celebrities, Tae-bo is a combination of boxing and calisthenics aimed at helping practitioners tone their cardiovascular systems, lose weight and gain strength.
Boyd introduced the fitness regimen to her classes this semester.

"They love it," she said. "They're really eager to learn the moves."

Boyd is also the school's assistant softball coach, but recurring nudges from fate have also given her an interest in communicating with the deaf.

In May she will graduate from Georgia Perimeter College's sign-language interpreting program.

"My hope, once I become state-certified, is to be a freelance interpreter," she said. "I can contract with an agency for small assignments, like interpreting during a job interview or medical check-up."

Boyd's first brush with the deaf community came in her small hometown of Pleasant Grove, near Birmingham, Ala.
While in high school, she and her friends often saw a mustached man cheering for his son on the opposite team, using wild gestures instead of words.

"I hate telling this, but we used to tease him and call him The Wolfman," she said. "Several years later I was in the convenience store my parents owned when he came in and (signed to me). That was when I realized he was deaf, and it taught me a lesson about making assumptions about others."

The lesson carried over into college, where Boyd would sometimes take notes for a deaf classmate in her theater lecture course when the official note-taker was unavailable.
"A while later I was watching the Miss America pageant and there she was," Boyd said. "Heather Whitestone, Miss America 1995."

Boyd said she grew more and more impressed with the spirit of the deaf people she had met, and finally decided she wanted to help that spirit grow. Once she started interpreter training, she said, it was like coming home.
"It was the best thing I've ever done. I feel I've found my niche in life," she said. "I'll never be a part of the core community because I'm not deaf, but I'm looking forward to immersing myself in the culture."

In July, Boyd attended Deaf Way II in Washington D.C. - an international conference and festival that drew thousands of participants from around the world.

"I met people from Croatia and Costa Rica, from all over," she said. "For five days I did nothing but sign. My eyes would hurt; it was all so visual. It was fantastic."

Boyd and her husband Robert have two children, Kylie, 6, and Maleah, 2. Softball is a favorite family pastime, she said. Kylie plays, Robert coaches, and Stephanie and Maleah cheer.

©The Daily Herald 2002