Edna Johnston has been  a passionate ASL advocate for the last 25 years in various capacities:  ASL master for theatrical productions (including “Sweet Nothings in My Ear” with Chuck Baird),  ASL educator for the American Society for Deaf Children, ASL Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) consultant, workshop presenter,  technical editor/ASL consultant for Trudy Suggs’ ASL in 24 Hours and Ken Glickman’s “Deaf Proverbs” curriculum, and translator/signer for Walmart online modules.  After graduating from Gallaudet University (BS, ASL Studies; BA, English Literature; EdS, Administration and Supervision) and McDaniel College (MEd., Deaf Education), Edna taught at the Columbia College of Chicago as a tenured faculty member in the ASL-English Interpretation Department for 12 years, where efforts were made to establish a charter school for deaf children.  Edna eventually moved back to Maryland where she grew up to teach at Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick. She taught ASL (K-12) for  two years, high school English for eight years, and Early Childhood Education for two years. Edna has four children–two deaf and two hearing–and enjoys travelling, preserving  ASL (by filming), politics, and reading.  


Connor McLaren graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Deaf Studies. He now works in the Visual Language and Visual Learning Lab (VL2) at Gallaudet University. His long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and specialize in assessment and therapy for underrepresented populations such as the Deaf and LGBT communities. In his free time, he enjoys working out, doing photography, and tutoring students in writing and ASL. Connor is looking forward to contributing to the SignWise project.

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Donna Valverde is a bonafide Texan, having only been out of the the state twice–once at Gallaudet University to obtain her dual Bachelor’s in Spanish and Sociology and to begin a teaching career at New Mexico School for the Deaf. After graduating from Gallaudet,, she obtained an MS in Deaf Education and Deaf Studies before beginning  her teaching career in New Mexico. She has taught English and ASL for a total of six  years as an a teacher and as a community college instructor and tutor. In her classroom, both languages are equally taught and reinforced.  She left the field of education to homeschool her children for five years. Today, she continues her work in education by contracting with short term projects that focus on American Sign Language, literacy, or education such as co-coordinating the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center’s Shared Reading Project at the Educational Resource Center on Deafness in Texas. Since  her two children are deaf and young, she is a stickler for choosing or adapting materials to ensure high-quality language acquisition for her little ones.


Born in the Midwest and bred on both coasts of the country, Lauren Ridloff is an educator, writer and sign language consultant.  She studied the relationship between English and American Sign Language, first as an undergraduate at California State University Northridge and then as an AmeriCorps Fellow graduate at Hunter College in New York City, focusing on Deaf Education.  While Lauren taught in a bilingual classroom at PS347 in Manhattan, she appeared in several sign language dictionaries: 1,000 Signs to Know, The Gallaudet University Dictionary of American Sign Language, Thunder Bay Press’ American Sign Language and educational video programs such as Vista’s Signing Naturally.  She is an actress in several shows such as this movie, Wonderstruck and on Broadway, Children of Lesser God. Today, Lauren lives in a 110-year old townhouse in Brooklyn with her husband and their Deaf sons, Levi and Wyatt. 

Dana Sipek is a stay-at-home mother of two deaf children. She received her B.A. from Gallaudet University in Biology in 2006. She then taught at Maryland School for the Deaf, California School for the Deaf in Fremont, and Kendall Demonstration Elementary School while finishing up her Masters from McDaniel College in Deaf Education in 2010. She received a certification from the Infant, Toddlers, and Families Certification Program at Gallaudet in 2017. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her fiancee, Brendan, their young daughter, son, and their dog, Adah.

Elizabeth Abenchuchan Vita graduated from Gallaudet University in 2004 with a BA in English and went on to get a MA in Linguistics from Gallaudet and a MS in Deaf Education from McDaniel College. She then moved to Austin, Texas and taught Language Arts in high school, with heavy emphasis on both English and ASL literacy. After four years of teaching, she left the teaching field to focus on raising her children at home. Currently, she has several hats: freelance writer, home improvement blogger, small business owner, online ASL instructor, and mom to 4 kids. Elisa, as she prefers to be called, is always looking for great ASL resources for her deaf kids and is very excited about being a part of SignWise.

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