COABE National Awards, Grants, and Scholarships

COABE National AWARD Winners

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We're committed to honoring the best of the best in our field!  We are pleased to announce the winners of the COABE National Awards. Thank you to generous funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. e wish to thank our Awards, Incentive Grant, and Scholarship committee led by Danielle Miles (Chair), Martin Loa (Region 6 Representative) and Andy Tyskiewicz (Past President Emeritus).

Sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation

Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year



Ana Chavarin embodies the heart and soul of adult basic education with her determination to succeed, persistence through many struggles, relentless enthusiasm, and countless achievements along her educational journey. Currently, she is attending Pima Community College in pursuit of a degree in Psychology while working three part-time jobs and raising four children ages 13 to 20 as a single mother. She has been a model classmate, strong student council leader, fierce advocate, and mentor to many during her tenure of involvement with adult basic education. If the field of adult education could pick one student leader who embodies the spirit and intent behind COABE’s Student Engagement Task Force, it would be Ana Chavarin. She has tirelessly advocated for adult education students and programs, shared her story publicly in countless venues, and has professed her lifelong commitment to continue doing so.

Outstanding Adult Education
Teacher of the Year

Holly Heintz
Tomlinson Adult Learning Center,
Pinellas County Schools, Florida

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Holly Heintz goes far beyond most people’s expectation of classroom teacher. However, according to her she is just doing her job. Holly began her career with PCS Adult Ed as a part-time instructor at Lakewood Community School, and later moved to Dixie Hollins Adult where she was made a full-time instructor. Most of her time at Dixie was teaching at the Pinellas County jail. As the jail is a pretty tough place to teach and work, Holly’s 10 ½ years teaching there, and her students’ stellar success rates support the idea that Holly is an extraordinary teacher. Whether at Lakewood, Tomlinson, or Dixie, dozens of teachers have trained with, been mentored by, and worked alongside Holly. For more than a decade, multiple administrators have recognized Holly as someone to trust with their schools’ most precious assets, their teachers. 

Outstanding Administrator of the Year



Dr. Mary Gaston's outstanding contribution to Adult Education is her passion for helping people find second chances. She believes in providing a hand up to those who want to find a better future. The greatest part of her career has been about helping people build better futures for themselves and their families, and in more recent years, assisting other adult education programs do the same, at the regional, state, and even national level. She believes that by providing quality learning opportunities, we are building better and brighter futures for our communities.

One outstanding example of Mary’s work is the Liberty Denim project, a Trade project developed by the SC Department of Employment & Workforce and Pickens Adult Education. The story of that project is illustrated in this video (

Outstanding Workplace of the Year

Dakota Provisions
South Dakota

Dakota Provisions has been a major employer in the Huron, South Dakota, area since they opened their doors in 2005. They employ 1,000 people in their turkey processing facility. Their staff are actively involved in promoting community diversity and integration in the Huron Area.

The management of Dakota Provision acknowledges the responsibility they feel toward their employees and the community in which they work and live. The assistance they provide to the Cornerstones Career Learning Center (CCLC) English language programs comes from the desire to help their employees improve their language skills and to become not just better employees, but more fully integrated community members. When a large number of the CCLC participants were hired at the plant prior to completing a post-test, management allowed CCLC staff time and space to come to Dakota Provisions and assess students who otherwise would not have received a second assessment.

When Management learned that many of their employees were interested in attending English classes but were unable to come to any of the scheduled weekday classes, their human resources team contacted Cornerstone to discuss the feasibility of weekend programming. When Cornerstones staff learned that non-native English Speakers at Dakota Provisions(DP) needed specialized English instruction in order to be able to move into supervisory positions with the company, they worked with the DP human resources team to develop a workplace literacy program tailored to this particular group. Their cooperation over the years speaks volumes about their genuine desire to collaborate with the local adult education and literacy program.

State Innovation of the Year

Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning Ambassador, Arizona

The Ambassadors Program representational leadership training focuses on the development of student voice in the fullest sense. It provides adult learners a recognized role in which they can publicly speak about their own experience and represent the common interests and needs of others. Students develop confidence and skills that transfer to other personal and professional roles. During an Ambassadors Training, participants learn and participate in the four crucial components of representational leadership for adult basic education. Awareness – statistics and research. Stories – a powerful tool to affect change. Public speaking – crafting a message and delivering it effectively. Meeting with officials – planning and facilitating a meeting with a person in power.

2018 COABE Scholarship Award

Theresa Hikita
Long Beach School for Adults’ HiSET Distance Learning Preparation Program, California

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Theresa Hikita has worked in the field of adult education for 22 years, first as an ESL instructor (12 years) and more recently, as Coordinator/Lead Instructor for the Long Beach School for Adults’ HiSET Distance Learning Preparation Program (10 years). She is passionate about equipping adults with the skills necessary for success in the workforce and in higher education. Theresa states, "There is no greater satisfaction than that derived from seeing my students’ lives change when they complete their High School Equivalency, enter the workforce, or continue with their education. However, for every student that enrolls in the adult school, there are over a hundred more who lack access to adult education."

2018 Incentive Grant Award

Kathryn Wisner

Morgan Community College (MCC) is a rural institution located in northeastern Colorado. The main campus sits in the city of Fort Morgan, with accompanying centers spread across 11,500 square miles and seven counties: Morgan, Kit Carson, and Lincoln Counties along with portions of Washington, Yuma, Adams, and Arapahoe Counties. 

In Morgan County, two delivery sites are located in the City of Fort Morgan, one on the college’s primary campus, and one onsite at Morgan County’s largest employer, Cargill Meat Solutions. The latter program has been in existence for over twenty years as a public/private example of a partnership that extends learning to employees. The program has been recognized nationally for its success in meeting specific industry needs and has been recognized at White House summits as a program of excellence.

MCC has offered a comprehensive program for teaching Adult Secondary Education courses to service area residents for over twenty years. Originally, the program was identified as an Adult Basic Education program with branches directed toward GED preparation and ESL instruction. As program foci shifted through changing Federal regulations, the MCC program moved its focus to Pre-college and Transitional Studies. 

Sponsored by Dollar General Literacy Foundation