Toad&Co Ambassador Spotlight: Jennifer Love of PinesandPeaks_

In a big, complex world where we’re all just trying to do our part, we celebrate finding your own version of “doing good.” Maybe it’s returning the grocery cart, helping a neighbor, or – in the case of our Ambassador Jennifer Love – education.

Jennifer is a pre-school teacher at a school for the Deaf, outdoors lover, and advocate for the Deaf Community. She uses her blog and @PinesandPeaks_ to share her adventures in the outdoors as a Deaf individual, thoughts on balancing a fulfilling career with getting outside, and teaching outdoorsy ASL signs.

We had an inspirational conversation with her about getting outside, allyship for the Deaf Community, and what we can learn from kids’ seven million wonders. Read on!

Toad: Thank you for your tireless and hard work as an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher! Can you share with us what working at a school for the Deaf looks like? And what do you love most about being a teacher?

Jennifer: What I love most about being an ASL teacher at a Deaf preschool is witnessing the ‘aha’ moments in my students’ eyes – it's like watching tiny sparks of understanding light up a room!

Working at a school for Deaf is much like working at a public school; the only difference is that communication is primarily through ASL. This creates a vibrant, visual atmosphere where everyone communicates effectively using their hands, facial expressions, and body language.

We also develop a deep understanding of Deaf culture, recognizing the importance of identity, community, and the shared experience of being Deaf. Classroom and school materials are designed with a focus on visual elements. Visual aids, interactive displays, and multimedia resources play a crucial role in the learning process. In our Early Childhood Center program, we often host cultural events, performances, and activities that celebrate Deaf culture and provide a platform for students to showcase their talents.

Toad: We love that. As someone who spends most days with young students, what lessons can grown-ups learn from children? Have you learned any memorable lessons from your own students?

Jennifer: One of my favorite quotes that grown-ups can learn from children is: “Children don't have seven wonders, they have seven million”. In my role as a teacher, my students have been my greatest teachers, imparting lessons in unfiltered curiosity, patience, resilience, and the transformative power of genuine laughter.

Toad: We know that when you’re not teaching, you’re fulfilling your own curiosity by adventuring outside. Tell us about your favorite way to get outside.

Jennifer: From the time I was just a week old, I spent every summer camping across the states in our RV with my family. Nature has a strong connection with my family, shaping a significant part of who I am today.

As for my favorite outdoor activity, it has to be hiking! There’s a magical essence in conquering a trail and reaching the summit. The fresh air, the scenic views, and the feeling of accomplishment – nothing beats it!

Toad: Some days it can feel like a challenge to balance getting fresh air and the busyness of a fulfilling 9-5 career. How do you balance enjoyment of the outdoors with full days of teaching?

Jennifer: Balancing teaching and enjoying the outdoors can be tricky, but it's all about mindset and planning ahead. Whether it’s a quick stroll after work or a weekend hike, I’m lucky to live in an area with access to trails for a quick stroll, which really helps me recenter and balance myself. I also live not too far away from the Adirondacks, which could be a great weekend trip!

Toad: That’s such a great outlook for getting outside. Relatedly, we love your outdoorsy ASL lesson videos on Instagram! Can you talk about your representation for the Deaf community, particularly in the outdoors? And from your perspective, what does allyship look like?

Jennifer: Firstly, I’m super thrilled you enjoyed my ASL lessons videos on Instagram. My goal is to bridge the gap between the Deaf community and non-signers, making the outdoors accessible.

Deaf individuals face many barriers and a lack of accessibility. I aim to break those barriers and showcase that the Deaf community can thrive in nature. The biggest challenge? Sometimes, it's the lack of accessible information in ASL.

Allyship for the Deaf community means fostering inclusivity and breaking down communication barriers. By including closed captions in all videos, amplifying our voices, gaining more Deaf representation in the outdoor industries, and encouraging non-signers to be more open-minded about making the outdoors a space for everyone, regardless of hearing or physical abilities.

Toad: Your passion for accessibility and breaking down barriers is inspiring! We are big on finding your own version of doing good in the world. What does “doing good” mean to you?

Jennifer: For me, doing good is about creating a positive impact, no matter how small. It’s the commitment to leave the world a little better than we found it.

Toad: Dream up the perfect weekend for us – what adventures are you up to?

Jennifer: Ah, the perfect weekend! Picture this: a camping trip under the stars, a sunrise hike, and a lazy afternoon by a tranquil lake. Throw in some s’mores and a good company of my husband and our dog, Stella – that, to me, is the perfect weekend.

Toad: Finally, finish this sentence: every day I aspire to…

Jennifer: Every day I aspire to spread joy, break down barriers, and inspire others to embrace the beauty of diversity. Life’s an adventure, and I’m here for the ride!