COABE National Awards, Grants, and Scholarships

We're committed to honoring the best of the best in our field! That's why we recently sought additional funding for our national award program. We are pleased to announce that thanks to generous funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, our award stipend for each of the three categories (Adult Learner of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Administrator of the Year) has been raised from $1,000 each to $10,000 each! 

Each year at our annual conference, COABE gives the following awards:

  • Adult Learner of the Year
  • Administrator of the Year
  • Outstanding Teacher of the Year

Award recipients in each of these categories are recognized at the annual COABE national conference during the awards luncheon and receive a $10,000 financial award to help defray costs associated with conference attendance, including transportation and hotel accommodations. As an added bonus the successful nominators receive a complimentary conference registration for the conference where the award is presented.

Additionally, scholarships and incentive grants are available. Scholarship recipients receive a $2,000.00 financial award. Incentive grant recipients receive a $1,500.00 financial stipend and $750.00 travel stipend to present on his/her project at the annual conference. 

The deadline to submit an award was February 15, 2016. Winners were honored at the COABE national conference in Dallas, Texas on April 11, 2016.

Sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation


COABE NATIONAL AWARDS

There were many outstanding candidates for our national-level COABE Awards. Congratulations to this year's award, incentive grant, and scholarship winners, representing the best in our field!


Adult Learner of the Year
Margo Hudson, Seeds of Literacy, Ohio

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Margo Hudson is passionate about learning. She received her GED in 2012 from Seeds of Literacy in Cleveland, Ohio, after 11 years of diligent preparation. Since graduating, Margo has tutored twice a week at Seeds, acting as a role model for students like herself. She continues to learn new skills in jewelry making, knitting, duct tape crafts, linedancing, candy making and music lessons for keyboard. She is an avid reader and works closely with an outreach ministry to young African-American men. 

Margo is a very vocal champion for the power of adult learning. She works as a housekeeper at the United Club at Cleveland Hopkins Airport and has strong relationships with her customers, many of whom are high powered business people from around the country and the world. Through Margo, many of them have heard about how her life was changed through literacy. They have invited her to speak on their radio programs, written about her for publications, collected books and supplies for students at Seeds, and made donations in her honor. 

Margo loves to travel the world with her husband, Dale Hernlund.


Teacher of the Year
Ronda Blakley, Moberly Area Community College
Adult Education Program, Missouri

Ronda Blakley has been employed in the field of adult education for the past 26 years. She also spent 34 years working as a special education teacher in the public school system in Moberly, Missouri. Early in her adult education teaching career, she was tasked with opening a new program at a juvenile justice center, where she taught GED classes to youth offenders. That sparked her interest in working with disadvantaged adults, and led to a 26 year career as an adult educator. Ronda recognized the need for adult education programs to collaborate with the community long before state mandates required this, and she became an active member of numerous service agencies in an effort to promote the cause of the adult student. Her community and civic involvement has led philanthropic agencies to support the adult education program financially, and has served to educate policyholders and stakeholders about the need for adult education in local com munities. When the budget was tight and programs were cut, Ronda worked for free for more than a year so the AEL program could keep a classroom open. She is a champion of the adult student and works tirelessly to contribute to the field through her commitment to lifelong learning and community activities, and through her celebration of the uniqueness of each adult student.


Administrator of the Year
Karen Kirchler, West Georgia Technical College, Georgia

Karen Kirchler was raised in Panama City, Florida and spent over forty years living, working, and learning throughout the state.  She completed all of her postsecondary education in Florida, ultimately earning a Master’s degree in Communication at Florida State University.

In 1997, after several years working in human services with disadvantaged populations, she accepted a position at Gulf Coast Community College that would become the start of her career in Adult Education.  Her background in human services served her well as she began working as an instructor and doing community outreach in the “Passport Program”, Gulf Coast’s newly established GED program.  Within six months she became the Assistant Coordinator of Adult Basic Education and a year later the Coordinator of Academic Tutorial Support, responsible for running the GED program and the college’s tutorial support programs.

In 2008 she moved to Georgia to become the Instructional Coordinator of the West Central Technical College Adult Education program.  In 2009 she was promoted to program director after the college merged with a sister institution and became West Georgia Technical College. In 2011 she took over leadership of the program as the Executive Director and was named Vice President of Adult Education in 2013.


Incentive Grant Winner
Kelsey Roth from Fayetteville, Arkansas

The Springdale Family Literacy Program (SFLP) engages parents in learning the English language, advocating for their families, schools and community, and equipping themselves with the knowledge to propel themselves forward in the community. If awarded the COABE Incentive Grant, SFLP will be able to dramatically increase the number of parents who are engaged in SFLP. Making known the program to all possible participants, and families mentoring families are the two components we believe are most vital to increasing the number of parents who participate in and benefit from the SFLP. First, the COABE Incentive Grant will be used to saturate the media to make SFLP known to all possible participants. Following this media blitz, personal invitations will be extended and commitment to the program built. Participants already engaged in SFLP will volunteer as welcomers and mentors to new families to our community, schools and to the Springdale Family Literacy Program.


Scholarship Winner
Susanna Lee from Denison, Indiana

Susanna Lee is an Adult Basic Education Specialist for Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) in Denison, Iowa. She has been in the field of adult education for over ten years, working primarily with English Language Learners and with adults striving for a High-School Equivalency Diploma.

Susanna is passionate about adult learning and about continuous improvement. She recently completed a Master of Science degree in Adult, Occupational, and Continuing Education through Kansas State University and plans to add a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) for Adult Learners graduate certificate. Her goal is to do her best for every learner she encounters and also to positively impact the field of adult education.

Working at WITCC has given Susanna the opportunity to interact with tremendously diverse learners and to thrive on the daily challenge that is the ever-changing world of adult education. She says, “This is truly the field in which I belong. I am blessed every day I have with these amazing students!”

Susanna is thankful to COABE and sponsors for their incredible support.


National Institute for Literacy Scholarship Winner
Lily Beth Brazones, Arizona

Lily Beth Brazones serves as Director for College Bridge Pathways for Rio Salado College, overseeing the teaching and learning side of the program. Her passion in ensuring that students succeed in their adult basic education classes. She has taught GED and ESL classes for over 27 years. She is also currently teaching GED Online. She is active in Arizona adult education having served as President for the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning in 2010. She has also served as president for the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association in 2012. She has received various awards for her work in adult education. She was the recipient of the Award of Merit and Award of Excellence from MPAEA but her main pride and joy is having raised her two college-age kids, Katelyn and Ryan,  into outstanding individuals. If you ask her what her main reward is for being in adult education, she would answer: “When a former student recognizes me at a store or at the mall and comes over to share his/her life’s successes”. What’s what makes her day!


Special thanks to the Awards, Incentive Grants, and Scholarship Committee for their work reviewing the many applications! The committee was led by Julie Kornahrens, a long time board member who hales from the state of South Carolina and the following individuals:

  • Mr. Tim Cook, Adult Education Administrator
  • Ms. Alice Baughman, Adult Education Instructor, 14 – 15 Dorchester County Adult Education Teacher of the Year
  • Mr. Kevin Burke, Adult Education Instructor, 15 – 16 Dorchester County Adult Education Teacher of the Year
  • Mrs. Rebecca Carter, Adult Education & ESL Instructor, 15 – 16 SC Adult Education ESL Teacher of the Year


Special Thanks

Special thanks to Dollar General for its financial support in sponsoring the COABE awards, incentive grants, and scholarship program!


Administrator of the Year
Karen Kirchler, West Georgia Technical College, Georgia

Incentive Grant Winner
Kelsey Roth from Fayetteville, Arkansas

Scholarship Winner
Susanna Lee from Denison, Indiana

National Institute for Literacy Scholarship Winner
Lily Beth Branzones, Arizona

Special thanks to the Awards, Incentive Grants, and Scholarship Committee for their work reviewing the many applications! The committee was led by Julie Kornahrens, a long time board member who hales from the state of South Carolina and the following individuals:

  • Mr. Tim Cook, Adult Education Administrator
  • Ms. Alice Baughman, Adult Education Instructor, 14 – 15 Dorchester County Adult Education Teacher of the Year
  • Mr. Kevin Burke, Adult Education Instructor, 15 – 16 Dorchester County Adult Education Teacher of the Year
  • Mrs. Rebecca Carter, Adult Education & ESL Instructor, 15 – 16 SC Adult Education ESL Teacher of the Year

National Institute for Literacy Scholarship Winner
Lily Beth Branzones, Arizona