Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Our People: Speaking without words

link Lillian Bowe: Staff photo

Kiki Gray signs to her student on Friday during a game of dodgeball at Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School. Gray has been working as a sign language interpreter at the Portales School District for nine years.

Kiki Gray didn’t think she was one for languages after failing French in high school, but she said American sign language just stuck with her.

When she met her cousin, who was deaf, she always thought about learning the language so she could communicate with him.

After she married and had three kids, Gray became a sign language interrupter by getting her certificate at Clovis Community College. She is only one of three in Portales’ school district.

Gray works at Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School. She has been working for the school district for nine years. She also teaches sign language classes at Eastern New Mexico University.

Gray and her family live in Clovis.

What is your favorite aspect of being a sign language interpreter? I love the language aspect of it. I love to see how the language develops and learn new vocabulary. The fundamentals of the language as well as teaching others the language, even if it’s not much, it’s still fun to do. I think in my next life I will be a teacher. Also teaching the brief history and culture of the deaf is important to me as well. That is what I do at Eastern. On this side of the state it’s not well known and I have my students think outside of their boxes and out of their comfort zones.

Do you know any other languages? No, I failed French in high school. It just didn’t work for me. I do have a little boy here that we trade languages. He gives me a Chinese word a day and today’s (Friday) was water. It’s shui. So I was like feng shui and now it makes sense, because it’s about the flow of the room like water.

You are also a photographer. What are your favorite subjects to shoot? People. Just people being people. Them being silly. Being themselves. I love to take pictures of my family. My oldest is out of the house now and it’s hard, but I have photos.

If you were stranded on an island, what three items would you bring with you? I would bring an electric blanket. I am always cold. It’s 85-degree weather and I’m wearing a long sleeve. I would also bring a good book and dinner from Thai City. I could live on Thai City.

Are you a big reader? I am a book nerd. I read a lot. My favorite books to read are historical romances. You have the women in the big ball gowns and the dances they go to. Then you have the women wearing long gloves because it was wrong to touch. (laughs) I just love it. It’s so much fun to read.

My youngest daughter is a huge reader. We have to tell her at 1:30 a.m. to stop reading and go to bed. In fifth grade she convinced her whole class to read the “Left Behind” Series. For her 13th birthday she asked for gift cards (to local book stores) and books. No shoes or clothes, only books.

Do you have any good family stories? We are big pranksters in our house. This one time I was still a stay-at-home mom, which I was for seven years, and my kids were pretty little. We cleaned out the entire refrigerator and put the stuff in the garage. So my husband came home and I was like, “Honey, could you get me a drink,” and he was like “Yeah, OK.” So he goes to the fridge and our son jumps out of the fridge and my husband is doing his best to get away. We were laughing so hard, we were crying and our faces hurt. You don’t expect a human to jump out of a fridge, but that is what we did.

— Compiled by staff writer Lillian Bowe

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