Janice, The Interpreter


Most, if not all, of her classmates never had any idea she dealt with hearing problems from a very early age in life. But that was the situation with Janice (Arney) Hawkins, a member of Livingston Academy’s 1963 graduating class. Janice recalls being disciplined in grade school for not paying attention in class. But the real problem went undiscovered because she didn’t know how to explain what was wrong. The daughter of Stanley Arney and wife Bertha Claudine (Melton) Arney, Janice was the youngest of seven children. Her siblings were Ray, Ed, Bobby Joe, Billy Coe, Kenneth, and Lucille. The Arney family lived in the Taylors Crossroads community of Overton County. While an elementary student at Independence, Janice never dreamed that later in her adult life she would be sitting in a classroom in the state of Kansas along side a hearing impaired child she would be responsible for. A very pretty five year old girl Janice nicknamed "Sunshine" with beautiful long, blond hair would become the "little girl she never had."

After graduating from Livingston Academy, Janice moved to North Carolina where she met and married Terry Hawkins, a member of the Special Forces with the U.S. Army. At the time they married, Terry had already completed nine years of what would become a 25 year career in the military. He was stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C., the place they made their home prior to being sent overseas. The next three years were spent in Frankfort, Germany, where their older son, Richard, was born. After returning to the United States, Terry was sent to Southeast Asia for a third tour of duty. When their second son, Todd, was born, the Hawkins family was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. Their next move was to Panama for two years. After once again returning to the states, Terry had his time in with the military and retired. The family eventually settled in Wichita, Kansas, where Terry found a job and Janice went back to college. But those same old problems in the classroom came back once more to haunt her after she enrolled in college. Anytime the professor was not facing the students, or was writing on the chalkboard, Janice couldn’t hear what was being said. She would then ask another student who sat near her to repeat what she missed, and that student just happened to be an interpreter for the deaf. She encouraged Janice to enroll in what was called a "Basic Communications class," or, in other words, a class teaching sign language. Students taking this course were taught "Exact English," a much more technical and advanced type of sign language. Janice took her classmate’s advice and completed two courses in this subject.

By the time she finished her training, Janice and Terry were living in Salina, Kansas, the place she got her first job as an interpreter in a junior high school. She told me how scary it was when she first started working with junior high students, and how those hearing impaired students she worked with didn’t hesitate to correct her if she made a mistake. It was during the year 1985 that parents of a two and a-half year old little girl named Kendra Peterson were struggling to adjust to the tragedy of having their toddler awaken from a 4-1/2 day coma to learn that a feverish illness had left her deaf. For the next two years of Kendra’s life, her parents looked for ways to help their daughter hear again, and eventually decided to allow Kendra to become a pioneer child for a cochlear implant. This device is an electrode that is inserted in the inner ear to replace damaged nerve endings and allows the person to receive sounds through a microphone and computer processor worn outside the body. At the time Kendra underwent this procedure, she was about the tenth child under the age of nine to receive an implant.

When Kendra enrolled in kindergarten in Salina, Janice was assigned to her as an interpreter, and for the next six years, they became a inseparable team. Her duties didn’t just include sitting near Kendra in the classroom to interpret whatever subject was being taught. Preparations had to be made daily in order to be ready for whatever assignments had been given in each subject, and this was something that required Janice to do a lot of studying ahead of time. This also meant Janice had to buy her own books that she carried in a back pack just like the other students did. It was also necessary that Janice attend meetings with Kendra’s speech teacher. She also had to learn how to care for the cochlear implant, including removing the computer part of the device before Kendra went out to play on the playground. And her work didn’t end in the classroom. If Kendra was involved in a dance recital, Janice was there. She became a very integral part of that little girl’s life.

Janice and Kendra
Janice and Kendra were photographed in the classroom in Salina, Kansas where Janice served as an interpreter for Kendra.

Needless to say, being together almost daily for six years created a very strong bond between Janice and Kendra. But eventually the day came when the Hawkins family decided to leave Kansas and move to Terry’s home state of Pennsylvania. Even though Janice and Kendra had to come to terms with having to say goodbye, which couldn’t have been easy, they still today stay in touch in spite of all the miles between them.

Having very caring parents, an excellent school system, and the help and guidance Janice gave her in her very early years, Kendra grew up to live a very normal life. She is married and has a family of three children, two of them twins. Janice has been back on one occasion to visit with Kendra, and every year, she receives a recent photo of Kendra and her family in a Christmas card. In September of 2006, Janice and Terry decided once more to relocate. This time the move was to Livingston where they bought a home in the Green Acres Subdivision of the Okolona community.

I’m sure part of the connection Janice made so easily with a child who suffered from a hearing disability came about in part because of her own problems with her hearing. It must have been a good feeling to know that the little girl she came to love as her very own had the opportunity to receive the kind of help that allowed her to go on a live a pretty normal life. Great strides have taken place since the time Janice sat in a classroom at Independence with problems that were unknown and misunderstood to the days when she once again sat in another classroom performing a great and very important service for a young child. Thank you, Janice, for letting us look back to what had to be a very special time in your life.


Kendra and Husband
Kendra and husband, Chad, and their children, Corbin, Katelyn and Kira.
Kendra's Children