When Katherine Montero was given a “do over” in her professional career at age 39, she jumped on it.
Previously, Montero had worked for the IRS, but when they moved out of state, they offered to pay for her to return back to school.
“Here I was at 39 years old, the mother of two children, being given an opportunity to truly find my passion and reinvent myself,” she said. “Being older, wiser and more experienced, made me realize I didn’t just want a career, I wanted to really make a difference and leave an impact in whatever field I chose to pursue.”
After 20 years in the business industry, she recalled a few encounters with Deaf employees who used American Sign Language (ASL) and was frustrated that she wasn’t able to communicate with them. Her Deaf employees were patient with her, smiled and encouraged her to learn ASL.
“That was it! I was going to study American Sign Language and see where it took me,” she recalled. “It just felt right.”
A self-proclaimed “lifelong learner,” Montero enrolled in Cleary School for the Deaf for ASL levels 1-5 prior to pursuing her associate’s degree at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) to be certain she could pursue this at a collegiate level.
After the first class, she was hooked, completing SCCC’s three-year Interpreter training program in 2010 and her bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights University in 2014. Montero became a tri-lingual/ASL Interpreter, who can speak, read, write or sign three languages fluently—a very rare skill.
Montero began working at Mill Neck Interpreter Service (MNIS) a little over 5 years ago after she observed a day in the life of a coordinator from the agency.
“I knew this was the agency I wanted to work with,” she said. “I saw that MNIS truly represented a professional agency that truly cared about the Deaf community as a whole. They weren’t just an agency based on earnings but wanted to support and advance the Deaf community in all areas of their lives.”
Montero has interpreted major life events from births to funerals and everything in between. But one event will forever be stuck in her mind: interpreting the last moments between a dying father and his son.
“I am moved by Deaf people every day,” she said. “I am blessed and privileged to be afforded the opportunity to step into their lives, their worlds, each and every day. They are the most caring, endearing people I have ever met. To see the world through their eyes is such a gift.”