Joanne Jackowski, daughter of Walter and Julia (Kianka) Jackowski and sister of Dr. Mary Jackowski, died unexpectedly on March 20, 2020 at Van Duyn Rehabilitation Center.
Joanne was a nationally recognized certified interpreter of American Sign Language (ASL), with more than 40 years of experience in all facets of sign language, teaching and performance. She first recognized her passion for sign language and education of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, when she took classes in Syracuse at Aurora of CNY, from Marjorie Clere and Angelo Coppola, her first teachers. She graduated from SUNY Cortland with a degree in speech pathology and audiology. Joanne continued her education in American Sign Language at Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which lead to her receiving her Comprehensive Skills Certificate (CSC) from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). Joanne received a MA degree in American Sign Language Interpretation/Special Communication Education from Gallaudet University, located in Washington, D.C., the first Liberal Arts College for the Deaf.
Joanne became an instructor in ASL at Aurora of CNY and Onondaga Community College (OCC). Additional certification training allowed her to interpret in sensitive medical and legal venues. These local activities were followed by her establishment of special educational services for the Deaf in Chicago, Honolulu and Bloomsburg, PA. As a faculty member of Bloomsburg University, Joanne expanded her teaching responsibilities to include the formation of a theatre for the Deaf known as IMAGE, with actors including hearing students using sign language, costumes, and set designs to present plays to Deaf and hearing audiences simultaneously.
Joanne was most fond of her work with Syracuse Stage Theatre productions. She broadened her interpreting skills in the classrooms of BOCES, Syracuse University and OCC in disciplines as diverse as poetry, engineering, visual arts and political science. She interpreted for internationally recognized speakers at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. For three years, Joanne developed American Sign Language curricula at the University of Hawaii. With her outstanding organizational skills, she was responsible for coordinating and presenting many workshops and tutorials throughout the country.
As a teacher, Joanne was a demanding taskmaster. She was willing to work with students of all levels of proficiency, if they demonstrated a commitment to learning a truly unique form of communication, with plans to become interpreters and teachers themselves.
Understanding the importance of political organization, Joanne was instrumental in establishing the local CNYRID Chapter and served on its Board of Directors for many years. She was also the National RID Region I managing representative, coordinating the activities of 14 states in the Northeast.
Simply put, Joanne’s goal for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community was to promote and advocate for their equal access to mainstream society. Her legacy included an abiding passion for a fully inclusive society, welcoming all, despite disability.
Joanne was a true people person. Her infectious laugh, bright smile and expressive eyes could light up a room. She was truly ahead of her time. Those of us who were fortunate to know her, will be forever grateful for her presence in our lives.
Donations may be made to the Food Bank of Central New York, 7066 Interstate Island Rd., Syracuse, NY 13209.
A special celebration of Joanne’s life is planned for a later date in 2020.