Janis: You are the recipient of this year’s Eisenhart Award for outstanding teaching! Tell me about that and tell us where you work and what you’re up to!

Jason: I’m an associate professor in the dept of ASL interpreter education at NTID/RIT, working my way up the academic ladder since 2009. Starting in a faculty position teaching then moving up to now, assistant chair of the department.

With the Eisenhart Award, it is my understanding that yearly it is awarded to 1 to 4 faculty. I have a funny story to share. At first, I got confused, when contacted by the committee for the Eisenhart Award, I was that someone nominated me. I was honored and yet I wondered who it was, and they didn’t say, so I was left wondering about that. Through this Eisenhart award process, the committee are to review CV, teaching philosophy, and class observation. Later on, at a conference back in April or May, I found out it was a former student that also was a teaching assistant (TA) had nominated me. That was wow. I was in awe of how I impacted their life and those of other students, they wanted to recognize and honor my contribution, it was such a huge honor to be recognized from the students. I had a conversation with colleagues about getting an award and the honor bestowed, the last time I had recognition, was back during my high school days at youth leadership camp (YLC) ran by NAD Jr. I received the “all around camper” award, through observation, only one person is chosen per month from all the campers. And I distinctly remember the feeling of sitting there in the audience, watching, and not thinking it could be me. Who was that person, yes, it was Yates, the director at that time spells out.

In that moment, it took my breath, I was thrown off, I said “what?”

I was extremely humbled and honored and that feeling is exactly how I feel about Eisehhart, even though it is years later.

Janis: Awesome

Jason: In terms of the whole process, the committee, this is really funny, some of the Eisenhart committee which are hearing non-signers, had it scheduled to come to observe my class and as I was preparing for their visit, I didn’t think about the need for interpreters. It was fascinating that even though they knew no sign language, they could still observe my teaching simply by the interactions with students, the vibes.

Janis: The interactive engagement with the students..

Jason: Yes, that exactly! I remember one committee evaluator taking detailed notes, filling the whole page, which puzzled me because they have absolutely no idea what I have said. It was a lot of notes. The next month, I received the news via email. Wow! Let me share something with you, this is important because I applied for sabbatical leave from my university to be given time off to do research out in the world and bring it back. I applied, but I didn’t get the approval. That was fine. It is all part of the academia journey, where you have some success and some failures. However, it was the very same week that I received news of this award.

Janis: So, life balances out

Jason: Yes! Balances out. First, was the bad news that my request for sabbatical leave was rejected because of weaknesses in areas that needed further justification. It was hard feedback, I was just very disappointed. It didn’t throw me off in a big way. It’s a life lesson, the journey we go through with challenges and struggles. And life isn’t always perfect. Then, in the same week to be recognized for excellence for outstanding teaching was rewarding. I believe it is the universe communicating with me, guiding my path.