The Presenters at the event were themselves Award Recipients
Adult learners from all over Nova Scotia were called up on stage at Festival Theatre by a series of guest presenters who, in many cases, were themselves adult learners and recipients of provincial awards. People like Wayne Baltzer, the 2007 Canada Post Community Literacy winner, who spoke about being laid off his job of 26 years and being forced to confront his struggles with low literacy head on. His success at upgrading led to a GED and then a good job, and he has been giving back ever since through talks at schools and to groups of people who find themselves unemployed.
Goldy Simon was another presenter. Goldy, a leader in the Annapolis Valley First Nation community, was instrumental in creating an oral history website as part of a family literacy project with VCLA that won the family literacy achievement award in 2008 for excellence in family literacy programming. Goldy spoke about her son and how he was being bullied in school because of his race. He came home one day and said: "Mommy, why is my skin brown?"
"I went to talk to the principal and when I was coming out of the office, I noticed a table set up in the hallway. It was Sophie and she was telling people about a family literacy project where parents and children could write books together. I signed up."
She and her son wrote a book about what it means to be native. She wanted him to have something he could understand and that the other kids in his class could also understand. She read the book out at the ceremony.
Michelle Dykens presented on behalf of her late husband, Jason Dykens, who worked for Flowercart as part of their contract with the Michelin. Jason Dykens was the 2006 Council of the Federation of Literacy Award recipient, a national medallion awarded in recognition of outstanding personal achievement. Michelle also read a short book that shehad written with her son. The book talked about Jasonís persistence and determination and how he was a model for other adult learners, as well as for his sons.
Uli Schmitt was another guest presenter. He and his family moved to Nova Scotia in August of 2007 and he began taking classes in the English as a Second Language program in Kentville in September of that year.
"I know for our family, when we first came to Nova Scotia, we were so impressed with the openness of the people, and how friendly everyone was, that we wanted to move here. But this is not the experience for everyone. Many immigrants struggle with loneliness and isolation. When you have trouble expressing yourself in English, you can lose your confidence."
Uli is an advocate for other newcomers to Canada and is a member of the Kings County Immigrant Steering Committee. Recently Uli opened his own business; Uli's Transportation Services and Farmfresh delivery", a distributor for Valley farm products to the metro area.
David Eisnor is a learner in the Adult Learning Program Level I class in Kentville. In 2009 he was one of two recipients of the William and Lucille Owen Award, awarded each year for two learners who best exemplify dedication to and achievement in meeting their learning goals, one each from Annapolis and Kings Counties. David was accompanied by his wife Cindy, and their daughter Hannah.
David spoke about being "tired of feeling stupid. I was tired of avoiding things because I thought there might be tests or exams are some written forms. As a volunteer fireman I avoided becoming the first responder. I could've done the training, but I knew there would be a written test at the end. I didn't want anyone to know I have trouble with reading."
Cindy added: "Hannah is so proud of her father. She tells her teachers that ĎDaddy is going back to schoolí. She tells her classmates when he gets a good mark on a spelling test. When she comes home from school she gets a snack and does her homework, just like her Dad."
Cindy is very supportive of the education David is getting. "You kind of have to be. What kind of life would we have if I didn't support him, and we were arguing all the time? He doesn't take time away from the family to do his homework - we do it together."
Carol Boudreau is the facilitator of the Grandparents International Storytellers, a group of 14 women who have been meeting weekly to discuss and write their stories since 2003. Under Carolís leadership they have published four books and a play, and donated all the proceeds to adult literacy (some $15000). This group was a mentor for a storytelling circle that started in Cherry Brook as well as a new one in Scotís Bay. In 2007, it was the recipient of the Seniors Literacy Partnership and Learning Award, anaward presented jointly by the Department of Labour and Workforce Development and the Department of Seniors.
"I suppose you would call our group of grandmothers a 'seniors literacy' group", Carol told the audience, "however we don't use the word literacy because I donít think any one of us would have shown up or stayed."
Her group is however, very much a literacy program. "Most of us felt that we could never write a story, we used the excuse that we were poor spellers and we didnít know how, etc. but it was lack of self-confidence that really held us back. This program is more about finding our strengths. We always had self-confidence, we just didnít know it. Whatís most important though is that we realize that we do have something to say and itís O.K. to say it! We have found our voice."
Mike Giffin was also a guest presenter. He was the coordinator of the Kings County Laubach Council and has been a tutor for eight years. His donation in memory of William and Lucille Owen in 2007 was instrumental in setting up an award in their name that is granted each Literacy Mile in the Valley. In 2007, Mike won the Patricia Helliwell volunteer tutor award, a provincial award honouring a tutor in a community learning program who best exemplifies the spirit and commitment of the former coordinator of the Hants Learning Network Association.
Mike talked about something that many adult educators experience: watching their learner become a teacher. "William linked his enhanced reading skills to an increase in his personal self-confidence and his wish to help others. While still working with me, he volunteered at VCLA to assist in the Driver Education program, making flash cards for the signage recognition program. For five years, he acted as a tutor for up to three participants in a Group Beginnersí Level math program. For two years he has worked as a one-to-one tutor with a Level One learner, helping her read her favourite books."
Sandra Milbury is the Co-Chair of the Hants Learning Network Association, and has been a director of the learning network in some capacity since its inception in 1994. She is the Coordinator of the Hants Community Health Board in Windsor. An adult educator, and tireless advocate for the network and the learners they serve, Sandra was the 2007 recipient of the Community Literacy Award, granted yearly by the Department of Labour and Workforce Development to honour volunteers in community based literacy programs.
Sandra introduced Cathy Caldwell, ALP instructor in Windsor, who spoke about the role of the instructor in adult education, and in particular that of Peter OíBrien, a much loved teacher in Hants County who passed away suddenly in May 2010.
The final presenter was Debbie Reimer, Executive Director of Kids Action Program and Apple Tree Landing Childrenís Centre, providing outreach for low-income families in Hants and Kings Counties, day care services, after-school programs, pre-natal support and advocacy. For 8 years Debbie was President of the Valley Community Learning Association from 2002 to just this month, stepping down at the AGM in June. It was during her reign that VCLA won provincial recognition in 2005 for innovation in community learning.
"I too am a learner", Debbie told the group. "I left school when I was in grade 9 for lots of reasons. I was a single mom on social assistance. I do have some understanding of the effects of poverty and low literacy on everything in your life. And I also know something about change and the power of education."