Leilani Johnson Leadership Award


In June 2016, at the NAIE inaugural national conference, the Board of Directors announced the establishment of the Leilani Johnson Leadership Award (LJLA) by presenting Dr. Leilani Johnson with the award. Dr. Johnson has been a visionary, champion, and leader in the field of educational interpreting for over 25 years. Annually, this award is granted to an interpreter working in education who exemplifies the leadership qualities that Dr. Johnson has demonstrated throughout her career. Nominated by their peers, the award recipient will receive a commemorative plaque and recognition from NAIE. 

Characteristics of exemplary service will be evident by: 

  • leadership in the field of educational interpreting
  • modeling of professionalism
  • continued participation in professional development
  • advocacy for appropriate working conditions for educational interpreters
  • continued focus on excellence in services for the benefit of deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind students

The specific work settings of educational interpreters can vary greatly (e.g., mainstream schools, deaf schools, general education classrooms, special education classrooms, postsecondary courses, etc). Priority consideration will be given to those who interpret in a PK-12 setting.  However, postsecondary interpreter nominations will be considered as well. 

To ensure full consideration of the nomination, nominees must be 

  • a member in good standing of NAIE;
  • an interpreter with at least 5 years of experience as an educational interpreter working in an PK-12 or postsecondary educational setting; and
  • a person who has shown characteristics of exemplary service and leadership.

Nominees cannot be a current member of the NAIE Board of Directors

Nominations will be submitted through an online application, and must include: 

  • Both the nominator’s and nominee’s complete name and contact information. (Note: the nominator cannot be the same as the nominee)
  • Nominators are not required to be NAIE members, but nominees must be a member in good standing to be considered. 
  • A letter in written English (max. 300 words) and/or ASL video (max. 3 minutes), detailing the nominee’s background, experience, and leadership in the field of educational interpreting.

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Nominations are now closed for 2021

2021 Winner

Colleen Ticherich Headshot

Colleen Ticherich
Read Colleen’s Nominations Letters




Past Recipients
2020 - Melissa Barg

Melissa Barg
Award Presentation Video

“It is my honor on behalf of Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916 to nominate Melissa Barg for the Leilani Johnson Leadership Award. As an administrator who is Deaf, Melissa shares my vision and passion for the education of students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Melissa is a well-respected educational interpreter in the state of Minnesota. She was one of the driving forces in the planning of Minnesota Statute 122A.31, informally known as the K-12 Interpreter Quality Assurance Law, which was implemented in 2000.


Melissa has more than 30 years working as an educational interpreter and has mentored more than 115 non-certified interpreters over the past 20 years. Melissa often pays it forward with her willingness to coordinate professional development opportunities; as well as securing presenters locally and from across the nation.


When one of our local interpreter training programs requests an educational interpreter to present about working in K-12 education, Melissa is the interpreter I choose to send. Melissa had an integral role in the success of our mentoring pilot project, supported by Minnesota Department of Education, which added a Certified Deaf Interpreter as a co-mentor to hasten the process of non certified interpreters becoming certified.

Melissa has been actively involved in the Region 11 Interpreter Shareshop which is a Mentors Teaching Mentors program supported by Low Incidence Projects. Melissa has a growth mindset and shares my belief that in order to grow the field of educational interpreters, we start by talking to high school students in ASL classes. Melissa has been one of our most valued ambassadors and has exemplified professionalism that our educational interpreters strive to emulate. Melissa is a member in good standing of NAIE, RID, Minnesota RID (MRID),and NAD. There is no one more deserving of this honor than Melissa Barg.”
2019 - Beverly Bruce

Beverly Bruce
South Carolina

“Beverly is the most considerate and professional Interpreter Coordinator that I have encountered. She is always looking for solutions that will encourage the student to be served in the best possible way for each need they may have. She advocates for the whole team to provide the best possible education for the student. For more than 30+ years she has served as an interpreter herself, and now it has come full circle as she interprets for Deaf parents whom she served as students. Whenever I need to ask for anything Beverly is there to answer any questions or just support me through any situation. Beverly is admired and respected in the Deaf community and even people outside of schools can only beam from ear to ear when her name is mentioned. Outside of school, she has served and interpreted for teenagers and for situations that have gone above and beyond. Beverly has served students from football fields to travel on field trips out of state. Beverly is exemplary in how she can share her passion for the ASL language with joy and do whatever it takes to advocate for it. I’m sure there are many places that she has served that I do not know of, because she is humble and does not broadcast her accomplishments. As she nears the end of her career, it has taken a toll on her hands and she has never complained of the pain or numbness that now can only be helped with either surgery or alternative measures. Her professional actions as an interpreter are not clouded by her personal life. If you are ever given the opportunity to meet Beverly Bruce you will be encouraged as a person, regardless if you are Deaf or hearing. I am just so thankful that I live in the same town and can work under her leadership.”

“She has gone beyond her job’s description. Her love for the students, former students and the deaf community is so evident when she is with them. She believes in their abilities and helps them in any way she can. She gives them individual attention such as study time or studying for a driver’s license, she’s gone on numerous field trips, and zillions of football practices for many years. She believe in ASL as their beautiful language. She is a strong advocate for them. There isn’t a single person in this area who doesn’t know her. She is dearly respected and loved.”

2018 - Stetson Stanger

Stetson Stanger

Stetson is one that others in the educational interpreting field look up to. Not only is he personable, but he exhibits many of the qualities of a mentor and leader. There is no question regarding the fact that Stetson is a leader. Stetson’s knowledge and experience are of great value to those he comes in contact with. Both mainstream staff, as well as those involved in the D/HH program in which he currently works look to him for guidance, support, and clarification. Stetson is extremely knowledgeable about Deaf culture, community, and the field of interpreting, and he is highly skilled at educating others on the aforementioned topics. As a team, he brings a comforting and encouraging presence and is always ready to provide interpretation assistance when needed. As well, Stetson is a life-long learner and values professional development. He often sacrifices his time in order to participate in workshops pertaining to the field of interpreting, more specifically, educational interpreting. Stetson is the epitome of flexible; he has experience in a variety of grade levels and is willing to accept interpreting assignments of diverse subject matter. There are circumstances which require Stetson to interpret at schools in the district which he is not currently assigned to, as he is the only male interpreter in the district. When these instances arise, he treats them with the same resoluteness he would his everyday assignments. Stetson puts his all into each and every assignment. He takes job preparation seriously, as he knows that being as prepared as possible will only aid his interpretations, which in turn gives students the best access to their educations. In addition to being flexible in regards to scheduling and subject matter, Stetson also has the ability to adjust his language mode and signing style to best fit his students. Stetson is continually engaged with his students in order to determine the need for expansion or language modification. The students he works with appreciate this quality, as well as his advocacy for them. Stetson discusses certain demands and controls with students and allows them to be part of the decision making process, when appropriate. He also thinks ahead, and takes these demands and controls into consideration when students are removed from the classroom, such as fields trips and assemblies. Students for whom Stetson interprets feel valued and are able to develop relationships with their mainstream teachers, alongside their peers, as a result of Stetson’s advocacy and the professional relationships he forms with his colleagues.

2017 - Marilyn Sterner

Marilyn Sterner

Marilyn has been an educational interpreter for over twenty years and has made a significant difference in the field by becoming a mentor to both emerging interpreters entering the field as well as working colleagues. She dedicates time during the school day, and even after school hours, supporting interpreters to reach their full potential so they can provide quality services to the deaf and hard of hearing students. Marilyn is professional, ethical, and goes to bat for the needs of interpreters. She provides in-services to the educational team so that they have a better understanding of the work of an educational interpreter and she is an advocate for deaf students. 

2016 - Dr. Leilani Johnson

Headshot Leilani JohnsonDr. Leilani Johnson 

In June 2016, at the NAIE inaugural national conference, the Board of Directors announced the installation of the Leilani Johnson Leadership Award by presenting Leilani with the award.  Leilani has been a visionary, champion and leader in the field of educational interpreting for over 25 years.   This award, named in Leilani Johnson’s honor, will be presented annually to an interpreter working in education that exemplifies the leadership qualities that Johnson has demonstrated during her career.