2015 VLF Conference Workshops and Presenters


Amie Whittemore

Tutor Recruitment & Retention Strategies

Since dedicating resources to tutor recruitment, Literacy Volunteers has increased recruitment by 30%. In this workshop, participants will share and evaluate current tutor recruitment and retention strategies and develop plans to implement new strategies to improve tutor/volunteer recruitment and retention. Discover creative, fun, and easy ways you can better reach volunteers and keep them engaged in your program.

Presenter Amie Whittemore, Tutor Recruitment and Communications Coordinator, LV of Charlottesville/Albemarle

Amie Whittemore holds a Master’s of Teaching from Lewis and Clark College and a Master’s of Fine Arts in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Before entering adult education, she taught and tutored writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. She currently recruits tutors, supports tutor training, and coordinates communications for Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville / Albemarle.


Elizabeth Girvan

It’s All About Relationships – A Strategic Approach to Board Development

A good relationship between the ED and the Board is crucial to the effectiveness and viability of every nonprofit. Cultivating those relationships can be a challenging and time-consuming task. This workshop will focus on the importance of taking the time to build board relationships, using communication strategies that build trust and foster board engagement, and creating an ED and Board Chair relationship that will set the tone for communication and involvement with other board members. The importance of strategic board development will be discussed.

Annette Loschert

Annette Loschert

Presenters Elizabeth Girvan and Annette Loschert

Elizabeth Girvan spent over twenty years in the legal field as a court reporter and legal researcher, but after answering an ad for a volunteer literacy tutor, she decided to change careers and pursue something more rewarding. In 2007 she moved from Seattle to Harrisonburg, where she began working as the Tutor Coordinator at Skyline Literacy; in 2011 she became the executive director. She has degrees in communications and organization development and a certificate in nonprofit management. Elizabeth and her husband live in Harrisonburg and have four grown children and one very active grandson.

Annette Loschert‘s professional experience includes corporate marketing and events planning, various positions in academic administration at the graduate business level, and 12 years of experience in adult literacy as tutor, board member, and Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of Roanoke Valley from 2003-2010. She currently serves as a non-profit consultant, facilitator and trainer. Annette holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA in management from Pace University. She provides strategic planning workshops to community-based literacy organizations through the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center and the Virginia Literacy Foundation. Annette serves as a member of the Virginia Board of Education Advisory Committee on Adult Education and Literacy, and has served on the board of the Virginia Literacy Foundation and is a past Vice President of the Virginia Literacy Leadership Council.

Jenny Bolte

Jenny Bolte

Let’s Talk

WIOA, Standards, and State Plans…oh my! And all I really want to do is help people! So how? Well, partnering—and truly partnering so everyone wins—is the answer. During this workshop facilitated by someone with “insider knowledge” about a literacy organization, adult education, and Goodwill, we’ll have a candid discussion about how these entities can best work with and support each other. Where do we start? What do we do? Who’s the convener? Why should I bother? Wondering about this or have other questions, then let’s talk!

Presenter, Jenny Bolte, Director of Program Development, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Jenny Bolte served six years as an Adult Education instructor and 14 years as a Manager for a Regional Adult Education Program. She is an active board member for the region’s literacy organization and now serves as the Director of Program Development for Goodwill Industries of the Valleys. In her various roles, Jenny has had the opportunity to come to understand firsthand the power of partnerships in order to help initiate change and progress.

Dr. Don Finn
Dr. Don Finn

Effective Methods for Developing Critical Thinking in Adult Learners

Adult education programs place great emphasis on developing life, workplace, and continuing education skills in their learners. Research on effective learning and adult education theory suggest that the most effective way to connect with adult learners is to draw from their life experiences as a means to help develop self-directed learning and critical thinking skills. This interactive workshop provides hands-on opportunities for participants to reflect on their personal biography as learners and educators as a model to help develop critical thinking in their adult students.

Presenter Don Finn, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Adult Education, Regent University

Dr. Don Finn has been an adult educator for over 21 years. Currently, Don is an Associate Professor and of Adult Education and program chair at Regent University and an independent adult education consultant. He has designed and delivered talks, trainings, and workshops for adult educators across the nation. Don has consulted with organizations to help them better understand the unique traits of adult learners and the programs that serve them. Don has authored and co-authored numerous articles on the topic of effective instruction for adult learners. Don is a past president of the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE), a member of the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) board of directors, and co-chair of the 2015 COABE national conference in Denver, Colorado in April.

Dr. Alana Simmons

Dr. Alana Simmons

Soft Skills—The Missing Ingredient

In the workplace, employee skills are typically divided into two categories—hard and soft skills. Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify. Examples of hard skills include job skills like typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs; soft skills are personality-driven skills like etiquette, teamwork, effective communication, networking, problem solving, critical thinking and professionalism. Soft Skills—The Missing Ingredient, focuses on providing strategies that will assist the adult learner in development and improvement of their soft skills, in return adult learners will increase employability, improve their work performance and build stronger personal and professional relationships.

Latosha Branch

Latosha Branch

Presenters Latosha Branch and Dr. Alana Simmons

Latosha Branch is an Educational Tester & Evaluator with the Virginia Department of Corrections. She has more than 15 years of instructional experience, which includes K-12 and adult education. Presently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Alana Simmons is an Educational Tester & Evaluator with the Virginia Department of Corrections. Additionally, she serves as adjunct faculty in the School of Business & Economics at King University. She holds a Ph.D. in Post-secondary & Adult Education from Capella University.

Click here for more conference information and to register

Don’t forget! Early bird registration ends January 9, 2015!

Registration for the 2015 VLF Conference is now open

Sheraton Park SouthThe VLF Conference committee is now accepting registrations for the 2015 VLF Conference.

Please note the following deadlines

  • Early registration ends January 9, 2015. Registration fees will rise after that date.
  • Conference rates for rooms end on February 4, 2015. Room fees will rise after that date. The VLF will only reimburse up to the conference rate.

We will be adding additional presenter information weekly to the blog.

Save the Dates! The 2015 Conference is scheduled for February 26 & 27

logobookonly This year’s VLF Conference will be held on February 26 and 27 at the Sheraton Park South in Richmond for Virginia’s nonprofit literacy organizations. Last year’s conference was bigger than ever, and this year we plan to provide enough workshop rooms to accommodate that growth. Registration will start officially in November.

Until then, we will provide regular updates on this blog! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.

Ginger Hilleary and Mary Cragun, Conference Chairs
Victoire Sanborn, Literacy Specialist,VLF

Email: vjsanbor@vcu.edu

Don’t miss!

Opening speaker, Dr. Anita Prince, who will facilitate an exciting 2-hour workshop demonstrating contextualized instruction. Workshops on

  • student recruitment and retention,
  • a demonstration of videos that explicitly teach low level students how to create a microsoft document or excell spreadsheet,  
  • a Q&A session with Virginia’s GED administrator and training for GED teachers available through VALRC,
  • a successful approach to teaching multi-level learners (from the very lowest literacy level on up) using professional staff and tutors,
  • how Goodwill’s job training and education programs and adult literacy organizations can find ways to collaborate with each other to benefit their students,
  • using apps and mobile devices to help students practice the skills they learned in the classroom,
  • finding facts and statistics to use in grants and regional presentations, and
  • how an E.D. and Board Chair can work positively on their communication skills to strengthen their programs.

7th Nancy Jiranek Award Winner: Ginger Hilleary

g_hillearyCongratulations, Ginger Hilleary, for receiving the 7th Nancy Jiranek Award for Outstanding Executive Director. In addition, without your support, the VLLC Conference would never have gotten off the ground.

Click here for the entire script of the award.

Ginger Hilleary (right) and Mary Cragun when the announcement of the Nancy Jiranek Award was made. Lower left: Jeannie Baliles and Ginger.

Ginger Hilleary (right) and Mary Cragun when the announcement of the Nancy Jiranek Award was made. Lower left: Jeannie Baliles and Ginger. Photos taken by Katie Bratisax

2014 VLLC Conference, February 27th and 28th

This year’s theme is: Partnerships and Strategies for Building Capacity

Look for more information in the coming weeks as we update  information. Registration information sits at this link: Click here.

Registration table

Signing in at the registration table

New Features this year

Pay by PayPal!

When using the Virginia Literacy Foundation’s PayPal account, please follow the instructions on the lower left hand corner of the registration form:  Click here.

Important! After paying by PayPal, send an email to vjsanbor@vcu.edu to let us know the names of your program, the number of staff you paid for and their names, and if you are attending one or both days. (To calculate registration costs, see sidebar.)

Tour Historic Richmond via a Trolley! (Thursday, 6-9 PM)

We are still working on the exciting details for this 3-hour tour on Thursday night. On Thursday evening, come join us for a lovely trolley ride and tour of Historic Richmond. Our trolley will pick us up at the hotel at 6:00 pm and provide a guided tour of many of Richmond’s sites including Shockoe Bottom, Church Hill, Capitol Square, Monument Avenue and The Fan. A gourmet packaged dinner is provided, with wine and beer available for purchase.  We are also planning a “mystery stop” so that we can experience the true “flavor” of our state capitol.

Cost of this three hour tour is $23 before February 27 and $25 day of tour.  Seating is on a first come, first served basis.  Payment for this tour is separate from your conference registration. The check should be made payable to: Vicky Sanborn. Note: the cost of the ticket is non-refundable!

richmond trolley


Workshops and Speakers

Friday’s Keynote Speaker: Miriam Burt, Center for Applied Linguistics, will Focus on ESL and the Workplace

Miriam Burt

Miriam Burt

Miriam Burt from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL), she is Content Specialist for Adult Education projects and provides technical assistance in the form of trainings and research-to-practice publications to people, programs, and institutions working with adults learning English in the United States and overseas in refugee camps, community colleges, adult education programs, workplaces, universities, business schools, and workplaces. She is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the Adult English Language Learner (ELL) electronic community of practice (CoP) of the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Adult and Vocational Education (OVAE). She is the author of several briefs on preparing adult English language learners for success at the workplace. Miriam’s workshop is entitled:

Her workshop topic is:

Integrating Workforce Preparation with Language Instruction

Educators working with adults learning English know the importance of preparing students to be successful in the workforce. They seek ways to ensure that foreign-born adults will be successful both in gaining English proficiency and in entering and advancing at the workplace. Using evidence-based resources, the workshop will focus on content and Language skills needed to enhance employability and advancement in the workforce.

Her keynote speech will be on:

Seven Things I Wish I’d Known in 1975.

On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to the Viet Cong forces. Shortly thereafter, Vietnamese and other South East Asian refugees began arriving in the United States. It was during this time that Miriam Burt began her teaching career working with adult s learning English.  In her keynote, she talks about what she has learned about working with adult English language learners in the nearly 40 years since that time.


Thursday’s Opening Speaker: Danielle Aaronson will focus on Values Based Leadership


Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Elizabeth Aaronson is a Leadership Development Partner at Luck Companies, an organization committed to igniting human potential through Values Based Leadership. VBL is a philosophy and model that encourages employees to live, work, and lead in alignment with their personal core values, principles, beliefs, and purpose to in turn, ignite the extraordinary potential of those around them.

Aaronson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Leadership and Psychology degree. She began teaching leadership directly after college and two years later moved to Richmond, VA to provide outreach and engagement opportunities to young professionals in the city through a National Non-Profit. Her passion for developing people and representing positive change drove her to seek a career at a company that cares deeply about their people and challenges them to exceed expectations in creative and healthy ways. Aaronson joined the Luck Companies team in 2012.


Focus on GED 2014

Jason Guard,  Sales Representative at Essential Education and Adult Education and Blended Learning Specialist, will present a workshop on

The impact of the 2014 GED test on ABE and Literacy Instruction. 

Jason Guard with his GED mug

Jason Guard with his GED mug

The new GED test is so full of ambitious changes, many GED teachers are worried and scrambling.  But the biggest impact may be felt at the ABE/literacy level as many of the instructional responsibilities trickle down.  Together, we will detail the new GED’s ramifications for CBLOs and make plans to respond to the biggest challenges of 2014.

About Jason Guard: Jason spent over a decade working at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center as a GED and Distance Education Specialist, where he managed the state-wide GED Helpline and the eLearnVA program. He got his start in adult ed teaching 16-17 year old ISAEP students to pass the GED test.  Currently, he works for Essential Education promoting innovative learning tools and teaching techniques across the mid-Atlantic region.  Jason lives in Richmond, Virginia. Serving our state’s learners and teachers is his number one priority.

In addition to Jason’s workshops, Jeffrey Elmore, the GED Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center, will answer your questions about GED 2014 and training during roundtable discussions.


Focus on Grant Writing

Chris Johnston

Chris Johnston

SMART Grant Writing: Developing Goals and Objectives will focus on the use of data in justifying need and the development of goals and measurable objectives to address that need.

Chris Johnston has been writing grants for the City of Richmond for over ten years where he currently serves as the city’s organizational Grant Coordinator. As part of this role, Chris provides grant-related guidance, editing, writing, and general technical assistance as needed, among other things. He has written simple small grants and lengthy complicated proposals that have received awards ranging from under $5,000 to over $1 million, with subject matter as diverse as multicultural harmony, fire rescue, and slum and blight abatement. Chris received a BA in Geography from the University of Minnesota and a MA in Geography from Miami University (Ohio). A native of Minneapolis, Chris now proudly considers the Richmond area as his home town.


Focus on ESL


Wendy Kilpatrick

Where the Action Is!  From low to high skill levels, at registrations and exit interviews, have you discovered that ESOL students still grasp for the right verb?  Do they remain stymied by the main verbs in questions and still don’t clearly state negative answers? Discover ways to tailor your lesson plans according to your own student needs and curriculum, through graphic organizers and interviews. Elicit verbs from student work and life situations, incorporate them into lesson plans, and use them for teaching tenses, all four grammar skills and survival language skills consistently throughout your sessions.  Your students will come away with a verb vocabulary “loaded for” the workplace and community. By tailoring your lessons with these methods, you will also be able to maintain the 60/40% student/teacher participation ratio.

Wendy Kilpatrick holds a Masters of Art in Teaching English as a Second Language from Georgetown University.  She has been teaching ESL for thirty years, from business schools in Manhattan to villages in Thailand to elementary schools and colleges in Northern Virginia, and it has been just great fun.

Lesson Planning for Low Beginning Adult ESOL


Xavier Muñoz

Participants will act as students in a 45-minute language learning experience conducted entirely in another language. Program administrators, support staff, and instructors will benefit from the workshop’s primary aim to create an affective change in attitude toward language learning and teaching. With the language learning experience as the workshop’s centerpiece, participants also will discuss effective practices in life-skills lesson planning for low beginning adult ESOL classes.

Xavier Muñoz has been teaching English to adult immigrants as an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV) since September 2012. He has a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University and will start an MA in TESOL or Applied Linguistics program in Fall 2014. He found an interest in adult literacy and ESOL education while volunteering as a literacy tutor with I CAN! Community Education Coalition in Tampa. Looking ahead, he hopes to build on his AmeriCorps experience by continuing to contribute to the field of adult education. He takes to heart LCNV’s mission of empowering adults “to participate more fully and confidently in their communities” and in their lives.


Focus on Learning Disabilities

Reading Strategies for Students with Learning Disabilities

Lauren Ellington

Lauren Ellington

In this session, participants will learn reading instruction strategies that can work with their students with either suspected or formally diagnosed learning disabilities. Participants will learn about the components of effective reading instruction and sample activities for them.

Lauren Ellington is the former Learning Disabilities Specialist for the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center. She is currently working in Henrico County Public Schools as a Reading and Math Interventionist. Ms. Ellington was also a Reading/English teacher in the Colonial Heights Public School System for six years. She is passionate about sharing a love of reading with students and helping them to unlock the mysteries of the written language.


Focus on Partnerships and Increasing Capacity

Partnering for Program success

Laura Naylor

Laura Naylor

Workshop participants will use interactive group work and discussion to: a) address the implementation of a continuum of adult education that supports all levels of learners while also providing them with college and career ready skills, b) learn about maximizing resources within regions, and c) work towards the common goal of learner success. Presenters will share a collaborative regional partnership focusing on combining resources to better address the needs of students and improve program efficiency.

Laura has over 30 years of experience teaching languages, with 13 in the area of adult education. She is bilingual, Spanish/English, has worked extensively in South America, taught in the Virginia Public School system for 17 years, and has been with the Eastern Shore Literacy Council for 6 years. Her responsibilities have included developing programs and initiatives, writing curriculum, training tutors and trainers, and teaching, her greatest love!

Amy Shockley

Amy Shockley

Amy has 19 years of experience in education. Her career began as an early childhood special education teacher which is where she discovered her strength of building relationships with families. She then worked for five years in K-12 administration. Although Amy has been officially working in the area of Adult Education for just over a year, her experiences working with children and their families provided her with the knowledge and skills to make the transition to the VCCS as the Regional Program Manager for Adult Education at Eastern Shore Community College. Amy is from the Eastern Shore, but fully realizes that the best way to enjoy the Shore is to leave it occasionally.


Focus on University Partnerships

Lisa Schick

Lisa Schick

Building Capacity Through University Partnerships. In this workshop, participants will engage in learning about the partnership, then working in groups to brainstorm potential partners, discuss strategies for engaging volunteers in civics education, and identify strategies to implement in their civics classrooms. Participants will leave the session with ideas for immediate implementation and for longer term goals for building capacity in local English Literacy Civics programs.

Ms. Lisa Schick, Program Manager for ESOL Career Development Academy at James Madison University and faculty member in the College of Education, along with Drs. Michelle Cude and Ashley Taylor-Jaffee, College of Education at JMU will describe their partnership bringing together Adult ELLs and Graduate level pre-service teachers. Schick, Cude and Taylor collaborate to implement a practical experience for pre-service secondary social studies teachers in the fall semester each year. Graduate students gain experience delivering civics content, working with ELLS, and gaining understandings of diverse learners.

Michelle Cude is an associate professor in the Secondary Education Department. She teaches courses in Social Studies education and supervises practica and student teaching.

Ashley Taylor is an assistant professor in the Secondary Education Department. She teaches courses in Social Studies education and supervises practica and student teaching.


Focus on National Organizations

Informational Session with Focus on Naturalization and U.S. Citizenship


Frank Reffel is a Senior Immigration Services Officer with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). He has worked in Immigration Law for eleven years and is considered a Subject Matter Expert. Prior to becoming an Immigration Officer, Reffel was a Customs and Border Protection officer at JFK International Airport with CBP Field Operations. Mr. Reffel also served in the U.S. Army. His expertise is in admissibility, eligibility for adjustments of status, naturalization, excludability, removability and waivers with specialization in non-confrontational interview techniques.

Introduction to Finding Nonprofit Funders 

fc_logoThis session provides an introduction to the Foundation Center’s comprehensive online database, Foundation Directory Online Professional. Learn how to create customized searches to develop targeted lists of foundations that will match your organization’s funding needs.

Beverly Mitchell, reference librarian at Richmond Public Library, has been a Foundation Center’s Funding Information Network participant since 1996.


Focus on Round Table Discussions

Amie Whittemore

Amie Whittemore

Tutor Recruitment & Retention, with Amie Whittemore, Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/ Albemarle

In this roundtable discussion, Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/ Albemarle (LVCA) will share the secrets of how we recruited and retained over 100 tutors in 2013. Find out how to make the most of your local media to increase the most valuable resource we have – our tutors. We’ll also discuss strategies for keeping tutors committed to your program once you’ve recruited them.


Jeffrey Elmore

Jeffrey Elmore

2014 GED Q & A with Jeffrey Elmore, GED Specialist at VALRC

2014 is here, and with the new year comes a complete overhaul of the GED test and a new atmosphere nationally regarding High School Equivalency options. These two 45-minute sessions will give participants the opportunity to ask questions and discuss details around changes to the GED test and the direction that ABE/GED instruction is going.


Brooke Pizzetti

Brooke Pizzetti

Alternative Goals for Lower-Level Learners with Brooke A. Pizzetti, Regional Program Manager, Rappahannock Community College

This discussion will consider how to address the need for alternative goals for lower-level adult learners. This will include ideas such as industry-specific certifications, digital badges, and the Career Readiness Certificate. Resources, assessments, challenges, partnerships and curricular models will be discussed. Sources: Microsoft learning, Virginia’s Educational Resource System Online, W!se, national Retail Foundation, NOTCI, Virginia Department of Education, VALRC.


Hillary Major

Hillary Major

Using Technology to Advance Student Writing, with Hillary Major, Publications Specialist at VALRC

At this roundtable, we’ll discuss how we can use digital tools to encourage student writing at all levels, from captioning a photo or illustration to commenting on online newspaper and magazine articles. We’ll talk about the instructional uses of blogs and comics and factors to consider when creating classroom blogs, wikis, or websites. We’ll share favorite links and ideas for activities to both decrease learners’ writing anxiety and develop their writing skills.


Mary Cragun

Mary Cragun

Ginger Hilleary

Ginger Hilleary

Easy, Simple, Organized Lessons (ESOL), with Ginger Hilleary, Executive Director, and Mary Cragun, Program Director at LV of Fauquier County

This round table discussion provides an answer to tutor complaints that “there isn’t enough time to prepare.” Using alternatives to traditional text, complete lessons based on monthly themes solve the problem of “what am I going to teach tonight?”


The GED 2014, ESL Workplace Skills, Grant Writing, Partnering and Collaborations, and LD are just some of many reasons for attending this year’s conference!

To Register: Click here for the 2014 registration form!

To view the 2014 conference page, click here.

Twitter hashtag: #2014VLLC

Facebook: We will be placing information on VALRCs page. Click here.

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2014 guidebook scan

Random Pix from Last Year’s Conference!

What a fabulous conference, as attested by one and all! We’ll keep adding images!

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David Baldacci Talks About the Need for Adult Education and Literacy Services

David Baldacci spoke during the 2012 VLLC Conference awards luncheon about the need for literacy services in the 21st Century. This 15-minute video highlights his excellent speech on the topic. Video taken by Michael Frontiero, Public Relations Director with Virginia Commonwealth University.

Feel free to embed this video on your websites and social media accounts.