Hundreds of Adult Education Providers and Champions Convene to Share Best Practices and Applaud Successes from 2020

The Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) held its annual NETWORK Conference March 25 and 26, 2021 bringing together nearly 500 teachers, tutors, counselors, administrators, students, and advocates to strengthen the practice of adult basic education (ABE) in Massachusetts. Attendees included providers of adult literacy classes, math classes, GED classes, transition to college programs, workforce development programs, and classes for adult English-language learners.

NETWORK is the signature annual professional development event of MCAE, the statewide organization for more than 3000 educators, adult students, individuals, organizations, and businesses that support equal educational opportunities for adults in Massachusetts.

The NETWORK 2021 conference was made possible, in part, by sponsorship from Eastern Bank, Assabet After Dark, and the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, as well as technology support from Burlington English.

With 50 workshops, an Awards presentation ceremony, and an Exhibit Hall, NETWORK provided a rich learning experience for attendees, an opportunity to connect and share best practices with colleagues from across the Commonwealth, after a year when programs had many new challenges to overcome. Many workshops presented new tools, technology, and best practices for remote and hybrid learning, testing, and student advising. These skills were critical to keeping ABE students’ academic progress on track during an especially challenging year.

Session highlights included:

  • Program directors and teachers from various local ABE programs across Massachusetts presented their best practices for reading comprehension, numeracy strategies, science learning, and advising students through various technology tools.
  • David Rosen of Newsome Associates presented a new guide, “The What, Who, Why, and How of Blended Learning for Adult Basic Skills Learners,” published last year by ProLiteracy.
  • Lisa Vermette, Director of Workforce Development and Adult Learning at Greater Lawrence Community Action, presented how to incorporate English as a Second Language (ESL) lessons into work skills classes.
  • State Senator Joan B. Lovely, State Senator James Eldridge, and State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier joined MCAE Director Rachel Gwaltney inView from the Hill, a conversation about current priorities in the Massachusetts legislature, State House support for ABE, and how advocates can make their voices heard.
  • Kirsten Mumma and Blake Heller of Harvard University discussed findings from three recent studies examining the return on investment for ESOL programs and how to evaluate research findings.

During pre-recorded awards ceremonies,MCAE’s Board President Roberta Soolman presented five awards to exemplary students and educators in the ABE field:

  • The Outstanding Student Award was presented to Ms. Rafaela Joseph, an ABE student at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester and Quinsigamond Community College. She was recognized for her drive and determination in building her English skills and working to bring her professional training from Brazil to a career in the United States.
  • The Outstanding Educator Award was presented to Ms. Leah Gregory, an ABE teacher and program administrator at East Boston Harborside Community School (EBHCS). She was recognized for leading efforts to help EBHCS students access food and other emergency services during the pandemic, and for being a leader in the program’s transition to remote learning.
  • Two Ruth E. Derfler Memorial Scholarships were presented, to Ms. Hasfa Asfa and Mr. Selvin Socop Morales. Ms. Asfa completed a high school credential program at Mount Wachusett Community College and is currently enrolled at the college studying nursing. Mr. Morales earned a high school equivalency at the Intergenerational Learning Center in Chelsea and is currently enrolled at Bunker Hill Community college, studying hospitality with future plans to become a flight attendant. Both students are also continuing their classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages. They were recognized for their academic achievements and for their leadership within their respective programs.
  • A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Ms. Andrea Perrault. Ms. Perrault had a long career at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education/Adult and Community Learning Services (DESE/ACLS) department, and was a visionary in promoting the connection between ABE and workforce development.  She is a founding member of MCAE, and remains actively involved in civic work in her local community and at the state level. The Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded periodically by the MCAE Board of Directors and Awards Committee in recognition of a lifetime of service to the ABE community in Massachusetts.  

Watch the award ceremony presentation videos and find detailed press releases about each award here.