I’m Ella Mae Lentz, the founder of ASL Presents. I was born in Berkeley, California, to Deaf parents and a Deaf brother. Everybody else in my family was non-Deaf.
My education started at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (now Fremont). Upon graduation in 1971, my education continued at Gallaudet University. I received dual bachelor’s degrees in drama and English in 1975. Soon afterwards, I participated in the National Theatre of the Deaf Summer School and launched a career involving ASL. That career found me at various jobs in the areas of research, developing, teaching, performing, and presenting.
My employment in researching ASL has been at places like Northeastern University in Boston, Salk Institute in San Diego, and the University of California in San Francisco. Two significant examples of my work in educational and training material development are the National Consortium of Programs for the Training of Sign Language Instructors (NCPTSLI) and the Signing Naturally curriculum series.
NCPTSLI was a grant project with the National Association of the Deaf and had the mission of upgrading ASL instruction. For two years through NCPTSLI, Ella developed and tested curricula, recruited and trained instructors.
The Signing Naturally Curriculum Series started with a three-year federal grant through Funds for Improvement of Post Secondary Education to develop curriculum for teaching ASL as a second language. The work continues today, many years after the grant’s expiration. Numerous publications and video products have emerged from this, with a few more in production.
Teaching ASL has been at the heart of my career with 30-plus years of experience at various places such as Gallaudet University, Northeastern University, and full-time tenure-track jobs at Ohlone College in Fremont (1987-1990), and Berkeley City College (formerly Vista College) in Berkeley (1990-2007). In 2007, I retired from teaching and formed ASL Presents.
I have done performances on television and stage, including the children’s television show Rainbow’s End, several productions of Children of a Lesser God as Sarah Norman, Baker and Cokely’s ASL curriculum commonly known as The Green Books, the video The Treasure: Poems by Ella Mae Lentz presenting her original ASL poems.
I have also done hundreds of presentations on ASL, Deaf culture and Deafhood. The books, videos, and articles that I was involved with or am mentioned in can be viewed by clicking on “Products.”
I am married to my wonderful long-time partner, Judy D. Gough. We have raised five children, the youngest being Deaf; they are now adults. We have nine (now ten) grandchildren, of which three are Deaf. We love animals and have had many pets such as dogs, cats, llamas, a goat, rabbits, rats, a mouse, and iguanas.