Conference 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
Megan Linzy
Eastern Iowa Community College
Scott Community College

Teacher of the Year 
Lynn Taylor
Adult Basic Education and Digital Literacy
TaylorMade Careers

Administrator of the Year
Vicki Bauer
Adult Education Director
Nebraska Department of Education

Incentive Grant Winner 
Shannan Cvitanovic
Director, YMCA Educational Services

Scholarship Winner 
Pamela Ritter
Director, YWCA Adult Literacy & Learning

National Institute for Literacy Scholarship Winner
Sandra Michele Echols, NY 

Special thanks to the Awards, Incentive Grants, and Scholarship Committee for their work reviewing the many applications! The awards committee was led by Deb Bomaster, a board member who hales from the state of Maine, Diann Bailey, MAEA from Maine, and Mary Helen Martinez, TALAE from Texas.

Sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation


Faced with a variety of life circumstances, Megan Linzy suddenly found herself as a middle-aged wife and mother without a high school credential, holding several part-time, night-shift jobs in an attempt to contribute to her family’s modest income. Undiagnosed in her formative years, Megan discovered in adulthood that she suffered from a profound case of dyslexia, creating a significant barrier to her learning ability. In addition, Megan suffers from diagnosed short-term memory loss.

Megan first entered the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges high school equivalency program in 2010. After two failed attempts, she enrolled for her third attempt at the program in early 2013. She entered the program, performing at a 6th grade level in reading and math. At this point, it was her personal goal to graduate from high school with her son. 

Upon her enrollment, Megan immediately began working with teachers, tutors, and program administrators to develop means of coping with and overcoming her learning barriers. She fully committed herself to her studies and to fighting her way to academic success. She juggled low-paying waitressing jobs with her school work, consuming all of her waking hours. 

After just a few short months, Megan celebrated her victory over learning disabilities as she completed her GED credential. She proudly walked the stage at graduation, realizing her goal of attaining her high school diploma the same year that her son graduated. She was not finished.

In fall 2013, Megan enrolled in her first credit classes at Scott Community College. Making a sound decision to begin with foundation-level coursework, she enrolled in math and writing courses to lay the groundwork for future success. As a first-generation college student, Megan joined Trio Support Services to take advantage of the additional resources available to her through that program. In recognition of her dedication and ability to overcome the most difficult of circumstances, Megan was offered a part-time job in the EICC adult education and literacy program as an evening assistant where she provides top-notch customer service and personal empathy to current students. Megan also volunteers her time to tutor adult education students who are struggling in their studies.

Megan made an early decision in her college career that she would like to give back to the field that was helping her dig her way out of her circumstantial hole. She set her sights on a degree in education, with an ultimate goal of teaching in the very program where she began her ascent. 

As if her personal obstacles weren’t big enough, Megan’s mother is in the late stages of a battle with cancer. Megan is her mother’s primary caregiver and has added this responsibility to the list of potential distractions to her academic success. However, in the same winning spirit that she has demonstrated time and time again, she has figured out a way to manage this bitter and emotional piece of her life with amazing grace and fortitude without compromising her academic success.

During her time at Scott Community College, Megan has been recognized as an outstanding student by Trio and is a recipient of the college’s President’s Award. She has been asked to share her story with current students, the college board of trustees, and even at the state level. Her personal story is compelling and engaging, delivering a message of hope and confidence to students who suffer from any kind of self-doubt. She has demonstrated amazing personal tenacity in overcoming multiple obstacles to her academic progress and has done so with spectacular results.

In May 2017, Megan will graduate from SCC with an associate of arts degree with academic honors. She has been accepted into a bachelor of arts in education program at Upper Iowa University, which she will begin in the fall.

It is with great pride and confidence in her ability to overcome the most devastating of obstacles that I can say that I look forward to the day that Megan will join our program as a high school equivalency instructor. I believe that she is most deserving of the 2017 COABE Outstanding Learner of the Year award and I look forward to celebrating with her as she adds this accolade to her growing list of achievements.


Dr. Lynn Taylor's primary work experience is in the field of Adult Basic Education and Digital Literacy. Her mission is to bridge the digital literacy gap for underrepresented and disadvantaged women to increase persistence, achieve self-sufficiency and economic empowerment. TaylorMade Careers seeks to assist disadvantaged and underserved women to transition from welfare to work by providing them with digital literacy training, leadership development skills and professional work attire. Lynn’s overall vision for the organization is to increase global digital connectivity and inclusion for all that desire to participate without barriers to accessibility.

Heels to Work Day is an annual event focused on providing disadvantaged and underrepresented women transitioning from welfare to work the opportunity to receive professional work clothes, onsite job and interview coaching and access to digital learning. This event actively engages women in digital literacy and increases the awareness of digital connectivity.

Inclusiveness is the main core value of the organization, more specifically digital inclusion. Clients can gain valuable Microsoft® Office computing skills and achieve industry-recognized certification as our workforce development services. These programs will help this vulnerable population participate in the digital world and overcome barriers to persistence, engagement and accessibility often prevalent in adult basic education.

As a result of this core effort of inclusiveness, disadvantaged and underrepresented woman have the opportunity to become future leaders in their community and actively participate in digital learning, the pursuit of self-sufficiency and economic independence. TaylorMade Careers seeks to help clients deconstruct and overcome barriers related to digital connectivity and empower individuals to actively engage, connect and integrate digital skills for the 21st century.


Vicki Bauer has dedicated the last 40 years of her life to adult education. Since 1976, Vicki has worked to assist thousands of adult students in Nebraska meet their potential and realize their dreams. However, she has not constrained her work simply to Nebraska, but has shared her wealth of knowledge and experience beyond its borders by serving and mentoring at the regional and national levels. During these four decades, she has served in many roles from instructor to local program director to state positions such as Adult Education Consultant, and finally State Director. 

Vicki began her work in adult education, almost by accident, when she was not accepted for a position at a local community college. Instead she was offered a clerical position in the Adult Education department to wait for another position to become available. While she observed the students and teachers in the adult education classroom, she was impressed with the program and the work being done to help these individuals who needed a second chance. Instead of pursuing her original career plans, she became an adult education instructor and the Learning Center Coordinator six months after joining the program when those positions became available. During this time at Southeast Community College, Vicki worked tirelessly to help students gain the skills and knowledge they needed to obtain their GED and be able to take advantage of better opportunities. 

After 10 years, Vicki decided to challenge herself when the position of Adult Education Consultant, which is the assistant to the state director, became available. After nine years in that role, the state director retired and she was highly encouraged to apply for the position, which she received. For the last twenty years, Vicki has been Nebraska’s Adult Education Director and state GED Test Administrator. Over the last two decades, Vicki has worked relentlessly to advance and grow adult education in Nebraska against sizeable odds and many obstacles. She has shepherded the program through multiple changes in tests, standards, and requirements. All the while, gaining the respect of her program directors and colleagues across the nation and building a successful program in Nebraska. 

Shannan Cvitanovic

Every day, job seekers line up at the library before the doors open, eager to use the public computers to search for work, write resumes, and complete online applications. Unfortunately, many find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide separating the computer literate from those left behind. This project describes how an adult literacy program housed in branches of the New Orleans Public Library started permanent walk-in assistance clinics to give these job seekers the immediate help they needed. The "Literacy Concierge" positions also help job seekers navigate local education and workforce training opportunities, as well as social services for those who are struggling with homelessness. As a result, more library patrons are getting computer skills training, as well as up-to-date information on workforce and ABE opportunities.


I have worked in the field of adult education since 1991, beginning as a volunteer tutor before going on to direct Illinois State Library-funded adult, family, and workplace literacy programs for 23 years. In addition, I have taught pre-GED reading, GED, and all levels of English for Speakers of Other Languages at Illinois Central College since 2005. I also spent three years as a resource specialist for the Central Illinois Adult Education Service Center at Western Illinois University, where I earned an M.S.Ed. in education and interdisciplinary studies (adult education emphasis) in 2008. In that capacity, I conducted training for adult education program administrators, teachers, and tutors at 18 community colleges and literacy programs. I continue to present at regional and state adult education conferences. Recent presentations include “10-Minute Assessments” and “Book Clubs for Adult New Readers.”

Among my accomplishments are receiving a Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and being appointed by the Secretary of State to serve a three-year term on the Illinois Literacy Advisory Board. 

I have directed the YWCA Adult Literacy & Learning program in Pekin, Illinois, since 2007, earning ProLiteracy accreditation for the program in 2012. My responsibilities include program planning; project management including monitoring and evaluating program performance, grant administration, and compliance with state and federal regulations; grant writing and other fundraising activities; budgeting; program marketing; public relations and public speaking; recruiting students; recruiting, training, managing, and recognizing volunteer tutors; maintaining statistical and other necessary records; and representing the agency in local, regional, state, and national educational and social service professional organizations. I am the regional adult literacy liaison to the Illinois Reading Council and the vice president of the District #514 Community and Family Education Planning Council.

My most important responsibility, however, is to tutor learners in our program, which I believe will make me a better manager of volunteer tutors. To that end, I keep abreast of current adult literacy research and best practices through memberships in numerous professional organizations and continuing education. I have received credentials as a Resource Specialist in Special Learning Needs (Illinois College Community Board, 2011) and STAR (STudent Achievement in Reading; Illinois College Community Board, 2013). My current area of study is Structured Word Inquiry. 


S. Michele Echols, Assistant Dean Gill Library at The College of New Rochelle, President of the New York Black Librarian’s Caucus, New York Library Association  (NYLA) Councilor-at-Large representing Academic Libraries, and Adjunct Professor at ASA College in New York City. Michele has worked in the non-profit sector and education for over 20 years; her areas of expertise include information / digital literacy, research analysis, staff development including responsibilities in curriculum development, case management, supervision, program development for both youth and adults, presentations and special events work. Michele’s background and experience, working in education, governmental agencies and non-profit organizations, laid the foundation for advocacy and consultancy work. 

Michele holds a Master’s degree in Library Science from St. John’s University and a Masters in Philanthropy and Fundraising and Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities from New York University.   A presenter at numerous conferences and workshop presentations, her essay entitled “What Does Black Public Librarianship Look Like in the 21st Century; the proverbial Information Age?” was published in the 21st-Century Black Librarian in America. 

A native New Yorker, she enjoys reading, and participating in community service, and lives by the words of late activist Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation