Faculty profile: Dan Mathis

Submitted by Joyce Parvi on

Dan Mathis joined the ASL faculty at UW in Autumn 2020 and like his colleagues Lance Forshay and Kristi Winter, he teaches all three levels of ASL at UW.

Born deaf, Dan was fortunate in that his mother was a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult), both of her parents being Deaf.  Dan thus grew up learning ASL in a normal first language acquisition environment, surrounded by signers.  Moreover, although Dan’s three brothers and father were all hearing, they learned ASL so that all members of the family could communicate with each other.

Dan graduated from Gallaudet University with degrees in ASL and Deaf Studies, then earned an MA in Sign Language Teaching Education, also from Gallaudet.  Prior to coming to UW, he taught ASL in many different institutions (public and private; K-12, community college, four-year university), most recently in Utah.

Although he found the geography of the Puget Sound area very different from Utah (what’s up with all the moss?), he felt right at home in the Linguistics Department.  Compared to the isolation he experienced at some institutions, he felt very welcomed at UW Linguistics and actually enjoys going to departmental faculty meetings.  (Since the non-ASL faculty have varying degrees of knowledge of ASL, faculty meetings always begin with an ASL lesson, a task rotated among the ASL faculty.) 

At UW, one of the most rewarding aspect of teaching ASL for Dan is when he is able to communicate with his students in ASL. He finds there is something special about being able to communicate with others in ASL, not through typing English or speaking through an interpreter.

Dan and his wife (who is also Deaf) have four adult children. Their youngest, also Deaf, was adopted from an orphanage in China when he was ten.  He had learned Chinese Sign Language at a Deaf school he attended in China.  Dan notes “it was fun learning some of his signs and we had to use them in order to be able to communicate with him and help him transition to ASL.” The three older siblings are hearing, and not surprisingly for CODAs, all can sign.