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Looking for Signs
SSD interpreter discusses her career and other life lessons

Gloriana Pack is an interpreter for deaf and hard of hearing students at Ritenour High School.

Gloriana, who began her career with SSD in 2002, describes herself as an outgoing person who values the importance of family.

"It’s funny because as much as I go, go, go and am busy all the time, I love being at home," she said.

Gloriana’s commitment to family became evident at a young age. She was one of six children — yet the only daughter — for Archie and Gloria Marshall. Gloriana first learned American Sign Language from her parents, who were both deaf. And although sign language has always been a part of her life, it was not always evident that it would be her calling for a career.

A 1980 graduate of Amherst College, Gloriana earned her degree in dramatic arts and spent nearly five years with The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre Co. Gloriana said during this time it was her father who encouraged her to become involved with interpreting, and so she began work as a sign language interpreter at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley.

Today, Gloriana has earned comprehensive certification and licensure in the state of Missouri. In addition to being an education interpreter, she provides religious and theatrical interpreting and is one of nine board members for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

She is the regional representative for the National Alliance of Black Interpreters and is in the process of setting up a local affiliate. She is also an active volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was recently paired with a "little sister."

Gloriana and her husband, Richard, have a blended family of two daughters — Aisha, 26; and Marjani, 19 — as well as one son, Richard, 24. She said that since the children are grown, she is finding the time to do things she enjoys.

"I’m enjoying the empty nesting syndrome," she said with a laugh.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy seeing the light go on. Knowing that the message has been received. When a student finally ‘gets it,’ that is what makes it so rewarding. I also think I have the opportunity to help raise awareness of deafness or people with disabilities in general by interpreting. It’s a way for me to bring sensitivity to people.

How would your friends describe you?
They would probably describe me as someone who doesn’t know how to stop — as someone who’s too busy and needs to relax. My best friend is always saying, ‘Glo, slow down!’ I like to have fun. And I really work at keeping a lot of negative energy away from me because life is too short.

What’s your favorite book?
Years ago I read "The Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison. That one kind of stayed with me. I also really liked "Malcolm X." I just read "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. It was a humorous, touching and emotional take on the relations between races in the ’60s in Mississippi. It was the book that we read as part of the book club I belong to. I really quite enjoyed it.

What was your favorite subject in school?

It started out as math up until about the 10th grade. As I got closer to graduation, I’m not really sure what it was. I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do after high school. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work or go to college or what.

What are your hobbies?
I love gardening, bicycling and a good game of Scrabble. I love Scrabble. I also read books for the book club. And I do like to cook. I love to cook.

What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

If it’s a good day, I may spend it in the garden. I like to reconnect with the earth. If it’s not too hot, my husband and I will probably do some distance cycling. Every year we do the bike ride for MS. It’s a 150-mile, two-day bike ride. We’ve done it the past 8 years. My goal this year is to do the century ride, where you complete 100 miles the first day.

If you could have a special luncheon and invite anyone (past or present), which five people would you want to sit at your table?
My parents — Archie and Gloria Marshall — my husband Richard, Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou.

What would you eat?
That’s a hard one. I’d have a cross-cultural blend of cuisine from around the world. It would be a big display. It would be similar to when Richard and I went to South Africa and ate in the middle of the desert. There was this big table full of the most delicious food. We went there on vacation at the end of 2006 with two other couples. We actually rang in the new year in South Africa.

What is one of your earliest memories?

I would have to say learning to read. When I was little my dad would always read to us. He was an avid reader. I remember when all of a sudden everything started coming together with the word recognition and the meaning. It was like a light went on.

What is the first album you purchased?
I don’t recall the first album I actually purchased, but I do remember the first album I received was Minnie Riperton’s "Perfect Angel." My brother, Michael, gave it to me as a birthday present. There was a picture of her eating an ice cream cone on the front.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
I love ice cream. My favorite would have to be a Crown Sundae — from Crown Candy Kitchen — with coffee and raspberry ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, pecans, whipped cream and a cherry on top. There’s nothing better than a sundae from Crown Candy Kitchen.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Lots of them. I like to consider myself a Jack-of-all-trades. I like to sew. I do like exploring new things. But I’m totally computer illiterate. I like working with my hands. I’m a good hands-on person.

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Last year I did a triathlon. That was an adventure. And I finished.

What would be your dream vacation?

I love to travel. I would love to go to Australia. Also, another place I would like to go would probably be to Egypt and some other places in Africa. We had planned an outback vacation to Thailand. The plan was to go cycling through the countryside of Thailand. I was really looking forward to that, but it got cancelled due to 9/11. I would still like to do that some day.

If money and time were no object and you could take an entire year to do whatever you want, what would you do?
Outside of travelling and going places that I haven’t been, I would like to be to be of service to the underserved — probably along the lines of the Peace Corps.

What advice do you have for children today?

I would tell them two things. One is that no matter what when the rubber meets the road family is all you have. I think a lot of times people — especially young people — take family for granted, but it is the one thing that will always stand by you. Family is the one thing you will always have. So cherish it. And the second piece of advice is that the one thing no one can ever take from you is knowledge. If nothing else, guard yourself with that. People can take things from you all the time, but they can never take your knowledge. That is something you own completely.
Gloriana Pack
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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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