Deaf Person of the Month
Superintendent, Illinois School for the Deaf
On May 1, 2014, Janice Smith-Warshaw celebrated the first anniversary of her appointment as the first Deaf female superintendent of Illinois School for the Deaf. Fittingly, this came during ISD's 175th-anniversary celebration.
She is a third-generation member of a Deaf family (parents and a sister), and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Although her parents graduated from schools for the deaf, she attended local public schools, and graduated from A. C. Flora High School in 1981. Describing her experience as "rather uneventful," and that she missed out on a lot of class discussions, she says that her parents were "my BEST teachers!" She participated on varsity teams—volleyball, basketball, field hockey, and track, winning MVP in volleyball during her junior and senior years.
She earned her B.S. in Management Science from University of South Carolina in 1986, M.S. in Deaf Education from Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College in 1996, Ed. S. in Change Leadership in Deaf Education, from Gallaudet University in 2009, and Ed.D. from University of Redlands' School of Leadership for Educational Justice.
She says, "It has been my sincere pleasure and honor to become a member of this great Deaf-school community."
Now that ISD has been celebrating its 175th anniversary, she has participated in several celebrations promoting knowledge of ISD's history.
ISD continues to use various approaches, such as piloting Cued Speech in selected elementary and high-school classes, to enhance reading skills, and K-12 ASL classes. Dr. Smith-Warshaw is committed to a full-access education environment for Deaf students. "Since I myself grew up in an educational environment in which I lacked full access, I made sure that my Deaf son had the full advantage of a Deaf school, with barrier-free communication access for his education.
"We are publicizing, via video and the printed word, that we accept and WELCOME students with all types of communication modes and needs, to a safe learning environment where we respect and embrace diversity. Word-of-mouth continues to spread the exceptionality of our programs, where all of our students experience success in an environment where educational justice is not only preached, but practiced every day."