What my Alumni, Friends, Former Professor Are Saying
Brian Joseph, The Ohio State University Professor
I very much enjoyed having Michael as a student in my course on “Language Endangerment and Language Death” in 2006. He opened my eyes, and those of the rest of the class, to ways in which American Sign Language is relevant to the study of language endangerment. For instance, he informed us about how Puerto Rican Sign Language, as a dialect of ASL, is being threatened by ASL as the dominant, potential “killer” language in the Puerto Rican deaf community. In addition, he offered his perspective about what being a user of ASL in the US meant for him. In subsequent years when I have taught the class, I have drawn on both the data he provided and the insights he offered when I teach about sign language and endangerment.
Kat Jasper, Interpreter
I will never forget the first time I met Michael Halischak. He was the very first Deaf person I had ever been introduced to. It was in an Introduction to the Deaf Community class, and he was our guest speaker. He was not involved in education at that point, but he really took the time to help us get familiar with the Deaf Community. I was interested in Deaf Culture because of the job I held at the time, a Behavioral Therapist. I worked with children with Autism, and it was discovered that one of the children I worked with was recently diagnosed with a hearing loss. Another therapist and I decided to take some ASL classes, and that is how I found myself in the Introduction to the Deaf Community class.
I never planned on becoming an Interpreter. I never thought I could ever become proficient enough in a foreign language to have such a career. I was planning on taking a few ASL classes, then I would go back to being a Behavioral Therapist. This is where my relationship with Michael changed things. We had started spending time together and, thanks to his unending patience, he persevered through my very slow and inept signing. As my skills improved, he encouraged me to start looking into becoming an interpreter. Thanks to Michael, I realized that this was the perfect career for me.
He taught me things about my career when I least expected it. One night he invited me out to dinner with a few of his Deaf friends. I accepted gratefully, and we all met at the restaurant. My signing skills had improved, but were not at the level to be conversing with a table full of native signers. I will never forget when someone started signing a story, and at one point, I got lost. Everyone else was laughing along, and I felt very left out. It happened several more times. Everyone was extremely friendly and accepting of me, I just couldn’t communicate at the level they were on. After that evening, I realized what a Deaf person must feel like in a room full of hearing people. When I told Michael this, he just smiled. He wanted me to have a different perspective, and I certainly got it. It humbles me to this day. You can be taught things in a classroom, but until you experience it first hand, you never truly understand it. Luckily, I had Michael to help me understand.
I am extremely thankful for everything Michael has done for me over the years. He has remained very supportive of my career and is always willing to help. I can proudly say that I am now a licensed interpreter, and I truly enjoy my career. When Michael told me he was going into education, I couldn’t think of a better place for him. Any student he has will be very lucky to have such a kind, patient, and encouraging educator.
Melissa Valle, Interpreter
Michael is everything that a teacher ought to be. Although I am not a former student of his, I have had the pleasure of observing his instruction in class. His passion for teaching is clearly conveyed through his vibrant enthusiasm, joyful nature and admirable dedication to his students. The combination of his native and studied knowledge of ASL makes him a wealth of information that he is always ready and eager to share either in the classroom or informally.
As a new interpreter, I have learned a lot from Michael either through one-on-one discussions, practice, and even my own study of his signed videos which allow me observe his beautiful use of language and expression that I strive to emulate.
I hope to continue to have the pleasure of improving my own skills through not only his valuable expertise, but his unending eagerness to help and share what he knows. For his students, it is my hope that they will acquire the same passion for ASL that he has. Regardless of your reasons for learning ASL, I believe that anyone, young and old, will benefit from and be inspired by all that Michael has to offer.