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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

ASL III professor returns to City College
Professor of Deaf Studies and American Sign Language Don Hanaumi signs with Tiffany Braga, interpreter, in the quad at City College Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])

Don Lee Hanaumi is no stranger to the Los Rios colleges. Though it’s been 14 years since he last taught at City College, he’s happy to be back. 

“It’s enjoyable to come back here, and it’s near my home,” said Hanaumi, who recently sat down in the quad with an interpreter to reflect on his teaching experience and personal life. 

In his 25 years of teaching he’s made appearances at Cosumnes River College, American River College, Folsom Lake College, Sierra College, as well as at McClatchy High School and Saint Francis High School. Hanaumi was born deaf and teaches American Sign Language classes ranging from ASL levels I–IV to hearing students. 

“In teaching hearing people, my goal is that hearing people will be able to sign, for one thing, and also for parents of deaf children and deaf babies. It’s really important for them to be able to communicate with their baby, with their family,” said Hanaumi. “Also to advance the career of interpreters because we need interpreters. Those people can work with deaf people, or if they have a coworker who’s deaf, or just for general interaction with deaf people.”

Hanaumi’s students, including psychology major Katie Servin, admire his friendly, communicative approach. 

“He’s a great professor. He’s really accessible. He makes himself really available for his students. We learn a lot of new signs every week. We go through it thoroughly,”  said Servin. “He makes practice a really big priority in class, which is good because that’s the only way you learn it.”  

Professor of Deaf Studies and American Sign Language Don Hanaumi goes over vocabulary during the ASL III class with Angelina Vargas (left), deaf studies major, in the Performing Arts Center room 125 at City College Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])

Though teaching feels natural to Hanaumi, he didn’t always plan to be a teacher. He graduated in 1982 from Gallaudet University, a world-renowned deaf college in Washington, D.C., with a degree in business administration and data processing. He got a job at the Hewlett-Packard corporate headquarters as a computer programmer in Palo Alto, where he worked for eight years. 

“It was OK, you know. I was working with machines, and then I changed my career to work with people,” Hanaumi said, adding that in his programming job he missed the human interaction that he now gets from teaching.

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His ability to teach is not limited to just schools, however;  Hanaumi has coached on and off for a co-ed adult softball league for the last 20 years. His team plays in the Fair Oaks League along with the National Softball Association for the Deaf. Hanaumi’s team won the league championship last year and placed second place last summer in their league.  

“We’ve traveled all over. We’ve been to Las Vegas, Austin, Texas, Colorado,” said Hanaumi. “The National Deaf tournament has about 50 teams who all compete and about 15 members per team, so you’re talking about 600 players, all deaf, all in one place. It’s a really great experience.”

In his spare time Hanaumi advocates for his community in everyday settings as well as politics. Hanuami works as a community educator through the NorCal Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, educating companies with deaf workers through Deaf Awareness 101 workshops, as well as working with middle school and high school deaf students. He also helps organize booths at job careers fairs, fundraising events, and creates monthly news vlogs that can be viewed on NorcalCenter.Org.

He currently serves as the president of the Northern California chapter for the California Association for the Deaf, where his goal is to push for full access for people who are deaf.

“It has to do a lot with politics, more advocating and fighting for deaf human rights. And supporting ASL to be recognized as a language,” Hanaumi said. “You have deaf workers who may attend a meeting at work, and an interpreter may not be provided. They should provide interpreters to provide equal access for all employees, so this is about making the world accessible for deaf people.”

This semester Hanaumi is teaching American Sign Language III exclusively at City College, as well as ASL I at Sierra College. Next spring he will teach ASL II and IV at Sierra.  

“I really enjoy teaching people,” said Hanaumi. “I have the ability to do it.”

Hanaumi says he looks forward to continuing to educate and uplift his community and students. He appreciates the tight-knit deaf community and will continue to advocate for their rights. 

“We have a celebration of ASL at the Sacramento Capital every two years, and at that time we ask all the legislatures to recognize ASL as a language,” Hanaumi said. “We really cherish and value our language.” 

Professor of Deaf Studies and American Sign Language Don Hanaumi goes over vocabulary for a test during the ASL III class in the Performing Arts Center room 125 at City College Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])
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  • AnonymousNov 1, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Correction: It’s Hilo
    Bay and not
    “ Gilo” Bay

  • S

    Shizuko HanaumiNov 1, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Hi, Don,
    The article about what you are doing for the hearing impaired community is impressive and quite an accomplishment. You are their voice and a leader in the deaf community. They are lucky to have an outspoken person who will convey to all about the needs snd concerns of the deaf. Keep up the excellent work teaching others ASL. Hope Leila and her son are doing fine in Austin. Love, Auntie Shizuko
    P.S. I forgot to inform you that a Uncle Harold ‘s Wife, Auntie Yoshiko passed away. She told
    me that you used to Leave your car at their house in Springfield, Maryland when you went home to LA. Her daughter Patti took care of her in San Jose this year because the volcanic smoke was bothering Patti. Patti has a home in San Jose and just retired as a graphic artist for university of Santa Clara. She was here last month to scatter Auntie Yoshiko’s ashes in Gilo Bay.