Janna Sweenie was born Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa and she has lived on the East Coast of the United States for more than 30 years. She graduated from the Iowa School for the Deaf with honors. Her Master's in Deafness Rehabilitation is from NYU. Janna’s American Sign Language books, co-written with David Boles, include “Hand Jive: American Sign Language for Real Life” published by Metro Books, a division of Barnes & Noble, and “Picture Yourself Learning American Sign Language, Level 1 (Including DVD)” published by Course Technology, a Cengage Learning imprint.
Janna is also the lead interpreter and Program Coordinator for the ASL Opera project where she, along with David Boles, offer ASL interpretation for the "high art" of the international Opera experience.
Be sure to watch Janna in her own video series -- Hardcore ASL live on Boles.tv -- where she shares her views on Deafness and disability!
Recent co-written David Boles Books include, “Day One: Learning American Sign Language in 24 Hours” and “For Deaf People Only” as well as, “Return of the Deaf Mute: The Lost Legacy of the Greatest American Deaf Generation” and, finally, “American Sign Language Level 5: A Field Guide for Advanced Communication Techniques for People with Other Disabilities.” For the last 18 years, Janna has been a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Deaf in the State of New York Department of Education.
Janna uniquely served as the Program Coordinator for American Sign Language at New York University from 2017-2020. Then the coronavirus hit and the world changed, and for the first time in its 40-year history, the NYU ASL Program was left with no one in a leadership role who knew American Sign Language, was familiar with Deaf Culture norms, or had any knowledge, or experience, teaching ASL as a foreign language. NYU removed its first, and only, and last ASL Program Director and Coordinator for budgetary reasons.
Under Janna's leadership as NYU Program Director, and then as Coordinator, the ASL program dramatically expanded in scope, influence, purpose, and stature. She created, and wrote, all syllabi for all levels of ASL -- creating a "Universal Cycle of Learning" across the curriculum, and she invented the grading rubric used for all ASL courses. Janna rewrote all course descriptions for Albert registration, and she brought ASL classes back to the Summer at NYU. Janna also re-established faculty observations by semester, with active feedback, and she scheduled all teaching assignments per semester.
Under Janna's tenure, graduate students were allowed to register for the study of American Sign Language at NYU. Janna also restarted the process to connect the NYU Program in American Sign Language to the Foreign Language Exchange with Columbia University. She also worked to establish an ASL Interpreting program for NYU, but was told the department held no interest. Janna previously served as Interim Director for the same ASL program in the Spring of 2017. Janna has been teaching American Sign Language at New York University for over 25 years, and she created the ASL 5 course for the New York University minor in American Sign language. Janna Sweenie is also a two-time recipient of the NYU Steinhardt School, Applied Psychology Department, Administrator Award.
Unfortunately, in the Spring of 2022, and in a university decision that suggests Ableism over Inclusion, NYU found the money to hire a Hearing replacement ASL Program Coordinator. In the Spring 2023 semester, Janna again made history as the first dual Tutorial instructor for NYU Gallatin. She taught "Black Sign Langauge" and "Deafness in Performance." In the Fall 2023 semester, Janna was delighted to be the first Deaf NYU adunct instructor to advise an Independent Study project focusing on Deaf Culture in American Sign Language, Level 5.