Born in New York to hearing parents and a vibrant Deaf community, Tina Jo, best known as “TJ,” grew up in the late 1950s, and witnessed not only protests against war and racism but also saw the prevalence of Audism. Upon graduating from the New York School for the Deaf in 1975, she went on to the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID), and then attended Gallaudet University where she had her epiphany about community involvement and how the community relates to education. She earned a degree in Social Work, and soon after, a Master’s degree in Student Development in Higher Education from American University. Afterwards, she worked at Gallaudet University, where she witnessed the Deaf President Now protests. She stayed at Gallaudet until she met Joe Dannis, which was followed by a new life, the dawning of a new era where ASL and Deaf Culture was recognized and appreciated. Since then, DawnSignPress has become a big part of her life, in addition to her focus to support great causes, not to mention helping families everywhere benefit from ASL use with children and ongoing involvement in Deaf schools and organizations in the community.
Tina Jo’s awards and acknowledgements include a leadership award from the Deaf Women United (1999), CSDR Donna Schiller Award for support and devotion to CSDR children and community (2007), California Association of the Deaf “Heart of the CAD Community” award (2013), CSUN NCOD John Bulwer Award for those who “dare to be different” (2014), Deaf Women Herstory month for significant contributions (2015), Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA) Pauline ‘Polly’ Peikoff Service to Others Award (2015), and most recently inducted into Fanwood Alumni Association (FAA) Hall of Fame. She has devoted much of her time to serving on various committees, such as a Board member of Deaf Women United (DWU), Chair of 1999 DWU conference; Chair of Community Advisory Committee; Board member for the CAL-ED (also served as its 2009 CAL-ED chair). She was also a board member of several other organizations: Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC), and on KODAWest Board. She authored “Know That…Quotes from Deaf Women for a Positive Life” and a series of ASL Babies Board books.
When not working, educating herself or volunteering her time, Tina Jo authors children books, enjoys writing poetry, the natural world she finds by hiking up the mountains and the seashore, spending time with husband Joe and to raise three children. When spending leisure time, she would generally prefer to stay at home with her family. She explains, “children grow like weeds, and before we know it, they cultivate their way out from home.” She especially enjoys playing host to international guests and friends.