“Speech pathology is my passion,” says Nicole Butler of her occupation, which she pursued as an undergraduate at Purdue University and then at New York University, where she earned a master’s degree. Today Butler works at Bell, a Chicago public elementary school in Roscoe Village, where she is a speech therapist and teaches deaf students. They run the gamut, from three- and four-year-olds learning to speak after receiving cochlear implants to older kids who have devised a coded sign language so they can talk privately. “My office is right next to the eighth-grade class,” she says. “You think they’re signing happy this-and-that, but actually they’re talking dirty.” Lately Butler has been taking improvisation and acting classes, working out a lot, and learning how to cook.
Photograph: Maria Ponce