NOTIS is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Heidi Schmaltz, a dedicated interpreter and translator and treasured friend. Member Helen Eby provides this moving tribute for Heidi.
Heidi Schmaltz (1982 – 2021)
Heidi lived for 38 years. During the “dash,” between 1982 and 2021, she made an impact on colleagues, friends, and on the profession.
I was one of those colleagues. We enjoyed having tea together after interpreting events in Clackamas. We got together to chat over lunch between interpreting appointments. She would call me to cover her appointments when she couldn’t make it… but I think it was just so we could have tea when I was close by.
She was an accomplished woman. A certified court and healthcare interpreter and literary translator, she also taught Spanish at the university level. Her translations appeared in the New England Review. They were published in this volume, posthumously.
She took advantage of opportunities. A training-of-trainers event for healthcare interpreters was to be held at Western Oregon University, where we would stay on campus for the week. At the time, Heidi was preparing to take the Oregon court interpreting oral exam. I asked her to come anyway, because some top-notch Oregon certified court interpreters would be there and could coach her outside of class time. She came, her room became a coaching hub, and she passed! She was relentless.
She volunteered. Heidi was a founding member of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters, where she served on the nomination committee. She was also a member of every professional group that was relevant to her work: American Translators Association, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society… She was a member of Interpreters United until 2019. She did advocacy. She taught. She was there to help the profession grow, and gave presentations for the associations to which she belonged.
I went to one of Heidi’s classes and observed the relationship she had with her students. They just loved her! She taught with kindness, compassion, and I got the idea she didn’t let anything slip by, either.
We went to the Oregon state legislature together on many occasions, advocating for the profession. We shared a passion for setting up a better world for our colleagues, but also for the non-English speaking people we serve. Heidi also worked on those issues with colleagues in Washington state.
To me, she was more than a colleague. She was also my friend. Her bridal shower was at my home. Heidi loved her husband deeply and was so happy to get married! Pablo is Cuban, so she went to Cuba to know his country better. They loved each other fiercely and were such a beautiful couple!
Heidi loved her mom. I remember when she brought her mom to give a presentation on medical terminology. At the time, her mom was a physical therapist and Heidi invited her to speak to a group of interpreters. The give-and-take between them was just beautiful.
Heidi loved to walk. If the interpreting appointment was within walking distance, that is how she would get there.
She loved books. We compared notes on books all the time. Literature, linguistics, dictionaries, everything. Pablo told me she always looked for the local bookstore whenever she visited a new country.
I miss my friend. When I learned that she would not be there for a phone call or a cup of tea… I could think of nothing else for a week. Heidi’s life was cut short at 38. Now it is time to continue the work we started together.
Heidi’s work at the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters
As a member of the Oregon Council for Healthcare Interpreters, Heidi gave of herself generously.
We were both nerdy. Heidi, too, loved digging into an issue, researching it, and finding ways to serve our colleagues. Together, we researched ways to update the language proficiency requirements for Oregon Healthcare Interpreters. We researched how to evaluate language proficiency testing programs. We researched… and researched… and that all got poured into work that benefited the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) program.
The most recent result of our study of language proficiency served as the foundational research for the Language Proficiency Testing Vendor Application for the Oregon Health Authority office of Equity and Inclusion. Now, the Council has a way to evaluate vendors who test language proficiency. Heidi even studied to be an ACTFL rater, and applied her knowledge to this project after we had exhausted all other possible research avenues. It takes 6 months of study to be an ACTFL rater! That is how dedicated she was to getting things right.
Together, we updated the language proficiency requirements for healthcare interpreters. After researching every single requirement on the list, we found that some were below the Advanced Mid level on the ACTFL scale. Some tests were no longer being administered, while others were written exams, not oral proficiency exams. As a result of this work with Heidi, Oregon healthcare interpreters had a more accurate evaluation.
She was also involved in advocacy regarding the legal framework for healthcare interpreting in Oregon. At the public hearing the last time the law for healthcare interpreters was amended, she pointed out that Council members give of their professional time and their work should be treated with respect. She argued that the OHA should generally follow the guidance of the professional subject matter experts who willingly donate their time, and should let them know when implementation of the advice was not practical. The OHA has been following that recommendation ever since, even though the principle is not enshrined in law.
Heidi was dedicated. She always looked for ways to improve the situation for healthcare interpreters and the people we serve. It took intense research, phone calls, emails, and meetings outside the official meetings, but she got it done.
It was a pleasure to work with Heidi. I grew by working with her. I miss her.
By Helen Eby
Obituary of Heidi Astrid Schmaltz | Crown Memorial Centers Crematio... (crowncremationburial.com)
Oregon Health Authority : Oregon Health Authority Approved Health Care Interpreter (HCI) Training Programs : Office of Equity and Inclusion : State of Oregon