Gatepost Interview: Bruce Bucci – Professor of ASL

Courtesy of Framingham State

What is your role at FSU and what does your job entail?

I am a professor, and I am the program coordinator, which means that I coordinate all the American Sign Language classes, the Interpreter Training Program and the Deaf Studies program. Those are my two basic roles – professor and coordinator. I am also the advisor to the ASL Club. I am involved in the Council for Diversity and Excellence, so I serve on that committee.

What is your educational and professional background?

My educational background is, I studied social sciences and secondary education, and that’s where I have my teaching license. I focused on social studies and history and I have a B.A. degree from Rhode Island College. I have a master’s degree in deaf education and a teacher license from McDaniel College. And I also have an educational leadership, EDS degree, and that is from Gallaudet University. My professional career basically started as a teacher in elementary, middle, and high school. I taught all those levels for deaf children. I taught at the Rhode Island School of the Deaf, and I taught social studies, history, and deaf studies. I taught those students for about 12 years – then, after that, I joined Boston University. I taught in the Deaf Studies Program and I was also the program director at Boston University. I taught Deaf Studies courses and American Sign Language courses. Sometimes, I would be involved in the Deaf Education Program, meaning I was responsible for pre-practicum and practicum supervision. I had to make sure the Boston University students were prepared to become teachers and for work in the field. I worked at Boston University for a total of 15 years, 10 years as a full-time faculty member, and five years as an adjunct faculty member. I also worked at the Rhode Island School of the Deaf during my time as adjunct faculty, and then I decided I wanted to be a full-time professor at Boston University. Then, the opportunity arose at Framingham State University – they were looking for a full time, tenure-track to teach ASL and Deaf Studies as well as coordinate the program. So, I decided to apply, and I feel truly blessed to be here.

What made you interested in studying education?

Well, I am from a deaf family. I am third-generation deaf in my family. I watched my grandparents and their education and compared that to my own educational experiences. I felt that I really wanted to study education and Deaf Studies so that I could make sure that deaf children had the appropriate language models and the appropriate role models. As a deaf person, I could give all those opportunities to my deaf students so that they could develop a strong language base and strong identities as deaf children and deaf adults – plus, acknowledging, respecting, and valuing their own backgrounds, ethnic relations, and cultures. My philosophy for teaching is different than the traditional philosophy of speaking and signing at the same time. Based on research over the years and my own experience, I feel that it is a much better approach to use bilingual and bicultural education, so that is basically why I got involved in the education field. I want to have an influence on students and encourage them to make lifelong changes in the world for the better and increase expectations for deaf children while improving the education that deaf kids were getting through a bilingual approach. My goal is to really encourage and empower deaf children.

What is your favorite part about working with students?

I love working with students. I can see the light go on in their eyes and I encourage them to develop their own knowledge and to develop their sense of self confidence. I empower them to continue their journey. I see the joy; I see the excitement. When students first come in and take American Sign Language at the first level, they don’t have any skills and I watch them go through each level and I see how their knowledge and signing skills have improved. I see how their understanding of the deaf community has grown and when they graduate, I know I will see them repeatedly in the deaf community. Seeing their development and how much they have accomplished is thrilling and inspiring to me.

Why did you choose to teach at Framingham State?

It is a small community. I feel that the professors here are fantastic. I love my department; I work under the world languages department. I feel that ASL, Deaf Studies, and interpreting have a tremendous connection to the world languages department. The world languages department certainly promotes diversity of different cultures and languages. I am so impressed with the students; they are passionate; they want to learn. The whole community for me is beautiful and the strong emphasis on diversity is very important to me. So, the idea of cherishing diversity, being anti-racist, and really respecting everyone – as a deaf person, that fits me to a tee. The Framingham community has been very welcoming – they look at me as a faculty member, as a professor, not only as a deaf person. I really am honored to work with everyone here. Physically, it is a beautiful campus. I love the Rams – they never give up! I love that mascot!

What advice do you have for FSU students?

First and foremost, it is important to believe in yourselves and be real. Love everyone in the world and believe that you will be the change of the world. So, you can empower yourself and you can empower others. Be empathetic, compassionate, and listen. Be able to talk and communicate with others. FSU students are our future. I would also say, don’t be afraid to take risks.