Calgary Learns - newsletter
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April 25, 2014

Connecting our Adult Learning & Literacy Community


In This Issue

Mark Your Calendar

Community Consultation
May 29, 9 am-12 pm,
Fish Creek Library

Initiative Funding
Application deadline
June 2 at 4 pm

Program Funding
Midterm report deadline
June 30

Community Consultation

Last year at our community consultation, Calgary Learns started an intensive needs assessment process. There was great conversation and valuable input shared. Professional development was one area that was expressed as a need in the foundational learning community. Calgary Learns is planning on allocating some funding to PD and we’re currently working on securing additional funding to address this community need.
Professional development was one area that was identified in our Needs Assessment as a need in the foundational learning community. Calgary Learns will devote some resources to this community need and we are currently working to secure additional funding as well.

It is imperative that the community has on-going input into the actual deliverables. To do this we plan to focus our Community Consultation on professional development to help prioritize and receive increased input about content.

We hope you can join us on Thursday May 29 from 9 am until noon at the Fish Creek Library for our Community Consultation. Please RSVP for this event.
As we mentioned in our previous newsletter, Calgary Learns is putting a team in the Calgary Marathon and this year we decided to direct all funds raised for professional development for community-based adult educators (last year's marathon raised $4,046 and this money has been added to our 2014 Initiative Grants).

Would you like to sponsor a runner? Visit the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon website to sponsor a walker who is walking for the foundational learning community.

(pictured above: Calgary Learns' Board Member Jeff Skipper and Executive Director Nancy Purdy)


Adult Learning & Literacy Guide

We have been working - with the help of Inform Alberta - on the adult learning/literacy program directory with the purpose of creating a more effective tool for referrals. Note that we are not re-inventing the wheel. There are a lot of great resources out there and it will be up to your organization to look for (and hopefully find) the directory/resource that works best for you, so you can help your learners find their way.

CALL TO ACTION!! Your assistance is required to create this guide. Ensure your programs are part of Calgary's Adult Learning & Literacy Guide by entering your information HERE. Deadline is May 8, 2014.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Nicky Peeters at or 403-266-6444 x 3.

Life Of Learning Awards - The LOLAs

A big THANK YOU to everyone who came out to our AGM and LOLAs on April 9, 2014. We so enjoyed celebrating foundational learning together with our many friends and supporters in the community!

This year we were honoured to have distinguished representation from Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education: Assistant Deputy Minister Gord Johnston, Executive Director Gilbert Perras, and Director Eileen Passmore. Our fabulous and funny emcee, Karen Johnson-Diamond, made sure we all "understood" what foundational learning was all about. Rob Cardinal, our keynote speaker, amazed us with his journey from struggling young adult to astrophysicist and community supporter of science education. His story illustrated the value of accessible foundational learning and the crucial importance of recognizing and building on every learner’s true potential.

Then it was time to celebrate learners, facilitators and programs, and to showcase the recipients of the 2014 LOLAs:
  • Learning Communities: Employment Services Training program (Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre)
  • Community Learning Champion: Roberta Kuzyk-Burton
  • Adult Learner: Loraine Luterbach
Congratulations to all of the award recipients, and also to everybody who was nominated and their nominators. Your stories encourage everyone around you. You are all winners, great advocates and superheroes in the adult foundational world.

Watch for profiles of the 2014 LOLA recipients in our next newsletters. In the meantime, please visit our website to check out their stories.

We also announced a new award category: the "Thanks A Bunch Award." This award is named to appreciate the generosity of Don Bunch who has the sponsored the LOLAs since 2011. We are all inspired by his personal commitment to adult learning. Starting in 2015, we will welcome nominations of exemplary donors who support adult foundational learning programs in Calgary. Watch for upcoming information on criteria and nominating.

We closed the day’s festivities with a special good-bye and thank you to Evelyn Tait, who leveraged her work at Alberta Human Services to advocate for adult literacy and learning in Calgary and across the province. Calgary Learns had the pleasure of working alongside Evelyn, a true champion and supporter of our work for more than a decade. We feel the loss when one of our champions moves on. However, true to form, on her first official day of retirement Evelyn Tait celebrated with us at the LOLAs.

(pictured above: Evelyn Tait and Jeannie Finch)

What you told us: Reporting back to Calgary Learns grant recipients

Do you ever wonder: “What happens to the funding reports we send to Calgary Learns?” First of all, we read them carefully. You clearly strive to show the great work happening in your programs. We delight in your successes and reflect on ways we can help you and your learners face the challenges you describe. Early in 2014, grant recipients each sent a final report on 2013 activities. Here are some of the main themes and trends arising from your reports.

Although most reports did not mention the June Flood, many programs clearly worked hard for fewer gains. Typically, we see a 20% increase between the proposed and final learner numbers. Many funding applicants like to leave themselves a buffer, under-projecting program numbers so they can report a positive result at year’s end. However in 2013, total enrollment was only 7% higher than originally proposed. This year some buffers were thin or gone. Even so, total enrollment was 6% higher than in 2012. Total reported instructional hours were about the same.

By the numbers, the Flood stressed our learners, especially those learning at the most foundational levels. Some programs saw fewer learners overall, others had to delay or cancel summer courses with all the costs associated. Some were even flooded out. Interestingly, programs across the city that focus on high-needs learners saw far longer-term effects than most programs offered in the flood plain. Their clients simply had more pressing concerns than learning. One educator reported that getting classes going again “…was like starting over.”

On the bright side, we saw more integration of Essential Skills across programs:
  • Writing and Document Use were common learner goals as were math/finances/shopping skills
  • Computers/Digital Technology integrated into Adult Literacy and English language classes, and the increasing popularity of these courses
  • Thinking skills, problem-solving  and continuous learning strategies showed up regularly
    • Accessing and navigating Public Library resources
    • Transitioning, step by step, into better situations in community, work and in family life
    • Learning about Calgary and Canadian contexts, topics including First Nations, the municipal election and life in rural Alberta
  • Last of all and very telling, oral communication skills were often pivotal to foundational learning success. Several reports described preparing adult learners to take public learning and literacy risks (practicing self-advocacy in personal and formal situations, public speaking and giving presentations)—and when learners take these risks, seeing huge leaps in confidence
The Essential Skills were well represented in learners’ goals and in programs’ responsiveness to learners’ direction and feedback. A full 95% of learners reported reaching their goals. Our IFL project participants and, happily, several other programs provided thoughtful narratives on learners’ skill acquisition and used Essential Skills language to describe curricula and evaluation.

What’s next? We pass these findings on to our funder, Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education.  We also work to leverage the fine job you do with these funds so that we may increase support of the foundational adult learning field in Calgary.  Thank you all for your efforts to explain what happens in your programs and with your learners through your reports. It means the world to us.
Going forward, Calgary Learns staff will begin visiting each of your programs once a year. Seeing learning in action will help each of our staff become better, more knowledgeable supporters and ambassadors of this important field. We welcome your thoughts as we proceed. Please call Jeannie if you have any initial feedback. Otherwise, expect one of us to contact you to book a visit.  

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