Employee Spotlight: Maria Ortado
Maria Ortado is an artist who has taken a unique path in her career. Growing up near the largest liberal arts college for deaf people in Washington, D.C., Maria began studying sign language in high school. She loved learning ASL but had not considered it a career option.
Instead, Maria earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University and taught herself stop-motion animation. She relocated to Wilmington to pursue a career in the film industry. However, she decided that career choice was not a good fit for her, so she returned to her passion for interpreting and earned her associate degree in interpreter education.
Student Accessibility Services Director Carolyn Levine knows what an invaluable asset Maria is to SAS and the college as a whole. “While I was on maternity leave, Maria took on responsibilities above and beyond her job description, without hesitation,” shared Levine. “She ensured the day-to-day operations of the SAS office continued without interruption and made sure students continued to receive quality services. Even when she is not filling in as director, Maria consistently goes above and beyond to assist this office, the students it serves, as well as faculty and staff across the college.”
Recently married to her long-time partner, Maria owns and operates a farm in Columbus County. In addition to growing a variety of produce and managing bee hives, she and her husband have about 50 laying hens. If you’re in the market for farm-fresh eggs, reach out to Maria for a dozen or two! Returning from a brief honeymoon, Maria chatted with us about her work at CFCC.
WHAT YEAR DID YOU START WORKING AT CFCC AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE?
I started as a staff sign language interpreter in Basic Skills in 2009. Then I became the Interpreter Coordinator / Assistive Technology Specialist with Accessibility Services in 2012.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?
One of my absolute favorite parts of my job is figuring out creative solutions to the unique issues our students encounter daily. A student will have specific learning or communication challenges that would seem to prevent them from participating in classes or activities. But we talk through the situation and are always able to come up with a way to make it work.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I live on a farm with my husband, Chris, and our dogs, Reishi and Chaga. On two acres we grow specialty produce, medicinal and culinary herbs, and mushrooms, and we keep laying hens and honeybees. The rest of the 18 acres are managed as an ecological preserve and outdoor nature classroom.
WHO HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR EDUCATION AND/OR CAREER PATH?
Without question, Gwen Morris, who was the Assistant Director of Student Accessibility Services, had the biggest influence on me professionally. She is the kindest person I have ever met. Many people reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about, and we all miss her now that she has moved on to UNCW. Gwen has the superpower to defuse any situation through a determination to be understanding and positive. Whenever I am dealing with a difficult situation, I always try to imagine how Gwen would handle it, and it always works out for the best.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Don’t wait to tell people how much they mean to you.
WHAT IS SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I hand-make all the shirts I wear to work, and I am an herbalist. We grow most of the plants I use in my herbal preparations. Last September, we were honored to be accepted into United Plant Savers’ Botanical Sanctuary Network. As a member of the network, we are committed to protecting threatened or overharvested medicinal plants that grow on our land and also to educating others on the importance of those plants.
DEGREES & CERTIFICATES
My BFA is from Virginia Commonwealth University, and I have an associate degree in Interpreter Education from Blue Ridge Community College.
I am a member of a variety of accessibility-related organizations along with colleagues with similar responsibilities at other institutions. I can interact and share resources with people facing the same challenges we do every day. Chris and I are members of many sustainability, ecological, and natural farming organizations.