2004 AALL Awards
Gary Eyre Lifetime Achievement Award - Vanda Salls
Vanda Salls has been active in numerous state initiatives, and encourages and supports her staff in professional development and program improvement activities. She remains keenly aware that adult basic education programs like hers report to various stakeholders: students, administrators, and state and federal agencies. Accordingly, she believes that to remain viable, adult basic education providers must demonstrate student performance gains. Likewise, she makes her faculty accountable for teaching to the organization’s learning objectives. She bases these objectives on the Arizona State Standards. She then employs a combination of standardized assessments and alternative assessments to measure learner outcomes program-wide. While one man with a vision founded the Gary Tang Center, one woman now carries forth that dream with pride and dedication.
In a career spanning 30 years, Vanda Salls has worked as an elementary teacher, an adult education instructor, a lead teacher, and a program specialist for curriculum and instruction. Sixteen years ago, Gary Tang “hooked” her into teaching adult education, and it was a lucky catch for the Glendale Elementary School District’s Adult Education Program. Under Vanda’s direction, the Gary Tang Adult Education Center has grown into the third largest adult basic education provider in Arizona. As a result of her effective leadership style, the Center receives regular local, state, and national recognition for its exemplary programming and student performance gains. Vanda also advocates tirelessly for greater public awareness regarding the existence, function, and benefit of adult basic education programs in Arizona. She remains in regular contact with state legislators through letters, telephone calls, and meetings to keep them abreast of how programs like hers contribute to a stronger economy and less dependence on public assistance programs. She believes that all of Arizona’s adult educators and administrators need to continue to work together to maintain the state’s status as a recognized leader in adult basic education, instruction, and research.
Vanda strengthens and improves the profession of adult education by committing herself to lifelong learning. She recently completed a Master’s Degree through Northern Arizona University while working full-time as the Center’s facilitator. Her program enabled her to apply the latest in theory and practice at the Center. She also regularly attends and presents at professional development conferences. Doing so allows her to learn from other adult education professionals working in the field and then bring this knowledge back to her own organization. Vanda has contributed to the profession of adult education by openly sharing her time, knowledge, and resources. She views adult education as her life’s calling and cannot imagine doing anything else. She considers herself fortunate to be one of the few people who wake up every morning and feel happy to be going to work.
Vanda cultivates sound relationships with fellow administrators and teachers. Accordingly, her peers highly regard her professionalism and expertise. As administrator for the Gary Tang Adult Education Center, Vanda has an open-door policy. On any given day, one can see a group of faculty and staff gathered eagerly outside her office waiting for an opportunity to discuss a concern, idea, or question with her, and Vanda accommodates their needs.
Lifelong Learning Advocate Award - Alyson Kay Hanson
Alyson Kay Hanson, a longtime member of AALL, is firmly committed to teaching English to adults of other languages. Her commitment is demonstrated in many different ways. She is not only just adept at teaching on all ESOL/ELAA levels, but also very skilled in adapting materials to the student’s level. She is quick to ascertain where an individual student or students need/s additional assistance and immediately sets up individualized program that a student may follow at school and at home. Her students are most appreciative that Alyson allows and encourages them to share information about their respective country’s culture with each other. Likewise, Alyson develops and organizes United States’ cultural events for student participation. As one of her students said after an Easter egg dying/hiding event, “Now I understand why this custom, and I even got to do it! This was fun and I learned a lot about my new country.”
Alyson’s students are encouraged to continue their learning through Rio Salado’s Transition program, GED classes or additional training/education at one of Maricopa Community College sites.
Through Alyson’s membership and participation in the ABE organizations, she continues to not only learn more about ABE programs, but also shares her wealth of experience with her colleagues. As a veteran teacher, she has extensive experience in course and curriculum development. At the Learning Center, MSC, Alyson is a team player and continues to mentor new and experienced staff. She developed assessment and placement tools, administers assessment tools, maintains students records, serves as a liaison to vocation training and community social service organizations.
Alyson has over seventeen years of diverse teaching experience in English with 15 of those years committed to teaching English to students of other languages. She has taught all ESOL (ELLA) levels as well as English 061, 071, 101, 102 012, 021,RDG091, and Art History 100, 101, 102 on the community college level. Her expertise extends into areas of developing course materials, computer assisted instruction, collaboration learning, textbook selection and the integration of critical thinking skills. As she said, “Teaching ESOL demands great creativity and innovation; this is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much. My humanities background gives me the ability to design a wealth of interactive activities.”
Her classroom reflects her humanities background. Her students receive a wide arrange of activities: thematic units integrating conversation, reading and writing; student presentations at holiday presentations and her well-known pot-lucks; high interest reading materials combined with vocabulary development, dictation to improve spelling and listening skills; singing songs to improve pronunciation; collaborative learning groups and partner exercises; simulations of real life situations; conversational and instructional games; computer assisted instruction; peer editing groups; contests; and field trips.
Without a doubt, Alyson’s classroom is a phenomenal environment where students learn to overcome great adversity to live and work in the United States, learn its language, and to assimilate into a new culture and a new country. She makes her students feel welcome, comfortable and safe. At the same time, Alyson instills within them a desire to pursue something more than just becoming a speaker of English. She encourages them in setting educational and career goals. She coaches them on developing the necessary steps toward reaching these goals. And, finally, she helps them with the necessary research to make their educational and career goals a reality.
While Alyson has taken several foreign languages, she decided to experience the difficulties associated with learning a language that doesn’t use the same alphabet as your native language. She is currently taking a course in Arabic. The insights she has gained furthers her understanding of the difficulties and challenges her Asian, Middle Eastern, and other students who are not familiar with the English alphabet experience. In the Alyson fashion, she is already developing and using activities that will help these students in particular and all of her students in general. By taking the Arabic course, Alyson puts into the action the belief that if you are going to enrich your own teaching skills, you must continue to further your own learning experience.
For Alyson, the greatest reward in teaching is seeing and hearing students progress in English and furthering their own educational and career goals, and she receives that reward daily.
Award of Excellence - Connie Armstrong
Last week Wilda Theobald asked me if she could “borrow” Connie Armstrong and have her help present a session on allowable accommodations at the upcoming joint session of program directors and GED examiners at the Institute in October. I, of course, said “yes” for Connie is extremely well versed in the subject. This is just one recent example of why I am happy to nominate Connie for the Excellence Award in Honor of Gary P. Tang.
For over twenty years Connie has been providing valuable assistance to an individual program, in addition to the Division of Adult Education. She started her adult basic education career in 1983 with the Phoenix Union High School District ABE Program as an ABE/GED facilitator. She taught classes of individualized and small group instruction. This continued until 1988.
In 1988 Connie was made the ABE/GED Chair of the same adult education program and her duties expanded. She administered various types of adult classes including basic skills, GED preparation, computer assisted instruction, family literacy, JOBS, life skills, and job readiness. She oversaw the staff of certified adult educators. She also computerized the student records and since this was the era of SLIAG, Connie created record keeping systems to meet the requirements of the Federal Amnesty Program, no small task.
In 1998 the Phoenix Union Adult Basic Education Program joined forces with that of Rio Salado College and Connie was given the title of ABE Coordinator. In this capacity for Rio Salado College Connie has supervised instructional and support staff at the program’s largest learning center where about 2000 students a year attend classes. She has also been responsible for the oversight of community class locations, and has acted as a liaison between the program administrators, teachers, students, and the community. When the program decided to develop an online GED course, Connie volunteered to take on the task. To this day she is still the main internet GED course instructor. She has always been involved in the planning and implementation of the program’s professional growth activities and has helped design curriculum and classroom materials. Two years ago, when the program had to officially start giving the TABE test, we relied on Connie’s experience with the TABE in determining how much and what we needed to order and how we should provide in-house training on the test. She was also put in charge of the computer lab at the learning center where she was housed.
As if this isn’t enough, last year Connie was made the Workplace Coordinator and she is now charged with “selling” enough ABE, GED, and ESOL classes to employers to be able to pay her own salary and that of her workplace teachers, and to buy instructional materials for the classes. Needless to say, she has to supervise and train the instructors as well.
The instruction and staff supervision that was previously mentioned is just one way that Connie has fostered the concept of education as a lifelong process. She has gone beyond that by becoming a vital member of the management team of the Rio Salado College ABE Program. As a team member Connie has attended monthly program management meetings since 1998 at which she helps make decisions that determine how the program will be run. Her years of experience really help here. As a trainer/presenter Connie has frequently offered her services to others. For example, she helps twice a year at Rio Salado College’s ABE Program in-services by holding a session with her teachers during which she shares program news and updates them on important policies. She has also been a breakout session presenter many times at the in-services.
Connie has been extremely active serving her peers at the state level. Several years ago Connie was selected as one of the original Standards Specialists by the Division of Adult Education. Since then, while others have ended their specialist duties, Connie has remained committed to continuing to provide this service to her fellow lifelong learning practitioners. In this capacity Connie has helped write the writing, social studies, and technology standards and recently renewed her role on the new Technology Task Force. She has also served on the State Conference Planning Committee.
Beyond volunteering to present at her program’s in-services Connie has been seen in this role at AALL mini-conferences. Indeed, she has presented at local, regional, and national conferences.
Connie’s professionalism has taken her beyond the duties of her position in the Rio Salado College ABE Program. For many years Connie has had a special interest in how to serve students with disabilities in the classroom. As a result she has pursued specialized training in this area. She has attended the NAASLN Conference, the National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs. She has participated in multiple-day Bridges to Practice and Bridging the Gap workshops in San Francisco; very specialized training on how Learning Disabled students learn and how to teach them. Last year Connie attended an invitation-only Bridging the Gap Leadership Summit in Atlanta. This was sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind National Literacy Center and it brought closure to the three-year Bridging the Gap project. But Connie knows knowledge is no good if it is not shared with others so she has done this many times by presenting on the topic at AALL mini-conferences. And when the ADE sponsored a Summit on Learning Accommodations Connie surely participated in it.
If you attend the AALL mini-conferences you are sure to have seen Connie sitting at the conference registration table. You see Connie has been a very active AALL board member since 1996 and was the treasurer for six years. You will also likely see her sitting at the marketing table at MPAEA Conferences since Connie became one of the two Arizona Board members of the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association in 2001 and this year began serving her second three year term. And when it was Arizona’s turn to sponsor the MPAEA Conference in 2002 Connie served as the conference registrar and treasurer, a huge combined task.
In summary, when you consider how Connie Armstrong has assisted individual programs and the ADE, and how she has positively impacted the concept of lifelong learning in Arizona, how can you deny this person the Excellence Award in Honor of Gary P. Tang?
Rookie of the Year Award - Marina V. Sires
From the time she was very young, Marina V. Sires knew she wanted to teach adults and to help them make positive changes in their lives. Over the past year, her work teaching ELLA classes for RioSalado College demonstrates her dedication to students. It is the realization of her early goal. This is the career area she looked toward, became educated for, and gained specialized training to accomplish. To her teaching she brings three important qualities that significantly add to the field of Adult Education. The first is knowledge from her experience as a language learner herself. She began formal English classes at age 11 in her Russian home city. She loved learning English and learned German as well. After achieving a baccalaureate in Russia she taught these two languages at the college level there. She says she much prefers teaching in adult education, as the students are more motivated and are extremely sincere in their learning. Marina understands well the needs of her language learners firsthand. The second is Marina ’s exceptional training in ELLA teaching. She uses researched, clearly thought-out practices in her teaching gained from a Master of Arts program in TESL at Northern Arizona University . From her work at NAU as a student and as a graduate teaching assistant in the Program of Intensive English there she collected many excellent tools for decision making, instructional delivery, and best practices. The employs these with skill and thoughtfulness. The third quality is Marina ’s exceptional “let me help” attitude. Marina adds much value to work area problem solving, to assessment logistics, and to use of innovative technological and accountability practices. For example, she has designed a student progress tracking technique to support BEST testing. Looking at the larger picture, Marina is an excellent example of what “value added” is all about. She does all that is expected of her in a very professional manner AND she quietly adds more to ensure success of students and program development.
Marina leads by example. She is a 21st Century leader in that she models the behaviors that show others how to conduct a class, how to improve situations and how to guide students to focus on making significant progress in their English language skills. She teaches, as many do, under less than perfect circumstances. Some of her classes are held in a back cornier of the learning center where a copying machine and a noisy test-scoring machine are also located. The space is cramped and the machines have users constantly “encroaching” upon the group she is leading. Nonetheless, Marina envelops the student group in an invisible bubble of focused interaction. By her leadership she shows staff, students, and other teachers how to make learning distinctly special for students. In that teaching, Marinaprovides plentiful resources and cues for learning all of the English language skills. Her students collaborate and are able to “tune out” the distractions all around them. They enjoy their learning, and it is easy to see that Marina truly enjoys their learning as well. Importantly, Marina “has the spirit” of adult education at its best. Her leadership in this facility alone speaks of what she has to offer the field and implies that she will continue to make a difference as a maturing leader.
Marina is an excellent teacher. However, her work in the eclectic, sometimes fast changing environment of the Rio Salado Learning Center at the Maricopa Skill Center in central Phoenix is full of diversity. There is inherent diversity of tasks, of skills, of approaches to whatever comes up, and of attention to the greatly diverse student population using the learning center. Marina is adaptive and knowledgeable. She attends to the educational needs of students from different ethnic groups, at all levels of ELLA and of all ages. She serves both a night program’s population and a day program’s as well. She attends to multiple layers of diversity as calmly and as directly as if the process were a simple, single task. Foremost, she gives full attention to students, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Her manner demonstrates the certainty that she is doing what she has always wanted to be doing.
Over the past year, Marina Sires has put what she has learned as an English learner herself and what she has learned in formal training in TESL into thoughtful, purposeful, reflective practice. She makes lesson plans that include key parameters like standards, adult education theory, adult education research, and respect for the integrity and needs of learners. She has an excellent of the importance and limitations of assessment. She looks to improve the field as she continues on her path in its practice. She has good ideas about how to improve adult education for teachers as they work to improve the lives of their students. She is forward looking. With assessment becoming more and more a part of what teachers must address, Marina sees the need for teachers to have more support. She sees, as many do, that adult education requires more public support and backing than it currently receives.
Marina not only demonstrates the highest degree of professionalism in her classroom, she expresses concern over the barriers to our field that currently keep it from serving the multitude of adult learners well. She states that what she loves most about her work is that she can see that she is making a difference in people’s lives. She sees that good changes are occurring. Her supervisor says that Marina has all the best qualities of a dedicated adult educator. She is an excellent team player; she works hard at everything she’s assigned. She comes up with innovations naturally and without being asked. She works well with all staff members. She is a genuine “keeper” in any work environment involving adult learners. She is a monumental asset to her students in every way. Equally she is an inspiration our adult education professional communitee.