Iowa Literacy Council awards two educators
During last month’s Adult Education and Literacy Virtual Conference, the Iowa Literacy Council took the unprecedented step of awarding not one, but two outstanding educators for the prestigious Archie Willard Award.
Arianna Walden of Kirkwood Community College and Diane Jackson of Iowa Lakes Community College were both named as 2021 Archie Willard awardees for their excellence and dedication to adult education and literacy in Iowa.
“They both demonstrated the values that were important to Archie. It would have been difficult to choose one over the other,” said Helene Fein, executive director of the Iowa Literacy Council. “And it’s been a tough year for literacy practitioners. Every literacy educator deserves an award this year.”
The winners of the award were chosen from nominations submitted by colleagues in the field. A committee selected Walden and Jackson for their years of service to adult education, dedication to literacy and feedback from students.
Walden was selected as an awardee for her steadfast work as an instructor coordinator with English language learners. In her role, she primarily works with immigrants and refugees, and her job is much more than just literacy skills. It is also about empowerment.
“There are so many newcomers to Iowa and to the United States,” Walden said. “One of the first places to connect resources is through language, being literate and being able to participate through language support. We are often the ones who first welcome them to the community and help them become independent and self-sufficient.”
The Archie Willard Award not only features the individual accomplishments of the two awardees, but it also serves as a reminder of the importance of adult education and literacy in general.
“It is important to highlight the work of adult education and literacy as it sets a standard for excellence,” Fein said. “It is a very challenging role. Instructors who teach those who can’t read at all take dedication and hard work.”
As one of the 2021 award winners, Walden was humbly surprised by the recognition, and it has encouraged her to do even more in her work with adult literacy.
“It was very surprising and motivating,” she said. “It makes me want to do more and help boost others in my professional learning community to help them recognize the importance of our work.”
The namesake of the award, Archie Willard, was a pioneer in the adult education and literacy field. He struggled with dyslexia during his lifetime and learned to read at age 54. He dedicated himself to advocating for literacy education and awareness and worked across the country and abroad to spread the word about its importance.
The Iowa Literacy Council is a state association with over 300 members and looks to continue Willard’s work in adult education and literacy advocacy. They provide professional development, national conference and webinar events, and networking opportunities for educators and supporters of adult education and literacy.