Introduction: I’ve known Katherine for a long time – since she was just started off at UC Berkeley. I’ve followed her career trajectory with great interest, fascination and tremendous awe. This single mother of 3 pushed herself through school (- at a non-traditional age) and went on to complete her Master’s and is now teaching in the public school system.
Her teaching job? She wandered into by attending a Teach for America career session at Cal – they were inaccessible. When she pointed that out, they became interested in her and wanted her on their team, saying they needed people who could – and would! – teach them how to do it.
The conversations with them swayed her from her original plan (- which was law school) – and she became a teacher instead.
Meet Katherine. One of my favorite people in the world.
Getting to Know You
Your name: Katherine Reyes
What’s your connection with disability? I lost my hearing when I was 4 years old, which merged me into the concept of disability.
Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars, I guess. Though I didn’t see it captioned until I was 18. I had no idea Darth Vader was Luke’s father. That’s not something you can tell just by looking at the acting. That messed me up pretty badly.
If you could live in any other country for 2 years, where would you go? Hmm. China?
What dish would your bring to our community picnic potluck? Depends on time of the year. During the school year, I’d bring by cookies from Costco. If it were summer, I’d probably bake a coffee cake.
Now That We’ve Been Introduced…
What do you do: I teach deaf and hard of hearing kiddos. This year, I work with high school kids.
How did you come to doing what you do? How has your career trajectory flowed? I have always known I would work with the deaf population somehow. I felt that my own lot in life was very limited and struggled to get past this limitation. When I got accepted into UC Berkeley, I knew it was my calling to help other DHH individuals succeed in every way possible. I was planning on a career in disability law with an emphasis on the deaf population but found myself with Teach for America after graduation. That is when it hit me…it is better to teach empowerment and success while people are young so that they can grow up to be their own advocates.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years? I hope to spearhead a school that serves all DHH kiddos who desperately need a good education. This is especially ideal in areas where education and deafness conflict with one another, such as Tennessee.
Not to be morbid, but what do you want people to remember about you when you’ve gone? Yikes. I’d like them to remember that I fought hard for “my people”. Heh.
Who or what inspires you? A lot of people inspire me. My friend, Meriah, who is always so positive and free-spirited. My children, who are so resilient, hilarious, and stubborn. My fellow co-teachers, who fight everyday to ensure that their students are getting the education they deserve. My mother, who makes people uncomfortable but has a lot of logic behind her reasons. People who relentlessly pursue a better life for themselves and others. Gandhi, who believed in peace regardless of circumstances. My students who struggle but won’t give up. I am inspired everyday.
If you could say something to yourself in the past – that is, the you that was really struggling with something related to disability – what would you say? I don’t think I could’ve said anything to my former self. I needed to experience all my downfalls in order to embrace who I am, including aspects of myself that I hated. And boy did I hate my disability. It took time, education, friends, and family for me to finally come to terms with who I am—there isn’t a phrase that can be uttered to completely erase the stigma attached with something that society doesn’t generally accept.
What do you like about your particular disability? I like that I can sleep like a bear at any time. I also feel that my deafness gives me a sense of peace that many hearing people don’t seem to have.
Any one thing that you wish people would *get* about disability? I wish people would learn to see disability as another aspect of a person, such as their skin color, height, certain personality trait, and their character. Disability isn’t something to fear. It is something to be appreciated and valued. I often feel that fear generated towards those with disabilities is akin to the fear whites had towards blacks or Spaniards towards Aztecs. It is unfounded, ignorant, and blind.
What single piece of technology makes your life easier? Definitely the iPhone.
Where else can we find you online? No where else—yet!
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.