2020 Symposium


Friday, December 4, 2020 | 8:00 a.m. ‚Äď 3:30 p.m. | Virtual | FREE to the Public

Literacy is the ability to read, write, compute, and use technology at a level that empowers an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member. 


This virtual event is for anyone who is interested in supporting adult literacy ‚Äď from experienced volunteer tutors and instructors to individuals who want to learn more about how they can serve this important cause during a time of social distancing and virtual learning.
Click below to see the presentation videos and presenters. 
During this FREE day-long symposium, attendees participated in workshops and presentations that explored best practices for adult literacy instruction for virtual learning. Focus areas included Parent Literacy and Multi-Generational Approaches to Learning, Health Literacy, Workplace Literacy, ESL Instruction, and Digital Literacy. This university-community partnership enhances the growing faculty of tutors, instructors, and supporters who are advancing the status of adult literacy in the region. Participants learned strategies that help learners thrive in the workplace, manage their health, and become more capable and confident ‚Äúfirst teachers‚ÄĚ of their children. Attendees also heard ways to better serve English as a Second Language learners and how to create vibrant learning opportunities in virtual and in-person environments.

presentation Videos

Welcomes and Open Presentation Dean Ron Cisler, Kevin Morgan, Cyekeia Lee

Is THIS the New Normal? Exploring the Effectiveness of Remote Education for Students & Families
Dr. Luchara Wallace, Jashaun Bottoms, Dr. Gus Calbert, Denisha Griffey, and Lazarius Miller
To Be or Not To Be . . . does remote education meet the needs of students and families in the  era of the COVID-19? In this session, the effectiveness of synchronous and asynchronous  instruction will be explored from the perspectives of students and families

Parent Literacy in a Pandemic, Challenges & Opportunities
Dr. Elizabeth Isidro, Kym Hollars, Taylor Sayers
Since March, everyone has been consumed by the challenges that this pandemic has brought. We want to make sure that year 2020 ends on a high note. As the Parent Literacy group, join our session to witness the specific ways we turned challenges into opportunities to keep our commitment to the families we serve. We will feature an interactive presentation that also includes an open discussion and a challenge-to-opportunity raffle that will inform and empower attendees to thrive during these unimaginable times.

Being a Virtual Tutor
Jackie Denoyer, Rose Fetzer, Taylor Sayers, Jessi Pavey
Many learners have a transportation barrier but we have a solution. Virtual tutoring removes this  barrier and empowers our learners to continue services with one less worry. Learn how to work with a learner one-on-one as well as a classroom setting without leaving your home. We will walk through a lesson in Challenger and explore the possibilities of virtual tutoring. We will also discuss best practices and how to connect with tutors regularly to build a network of virtual  tutors to better support each other.

English + Health + Literacy
Dr. Doris Ravotas, Taylor Sayers, Hailey Beyer, Madison Banks, Naomi Oshitani
The CoVid-19 pandemic has been a challenge to all of us, as we try to understand messages  from scientists and what this means for our own behavior. But unpacking those messages is  only one challenge to literacy and language learners. Even in a pandemic, learners need  information on how to live healthy lives, how to access health care, and how to talk with their health providers. The KLC has been busy trying to meet all of these needs in a virtual format. Programming has included keeping up to date on Covid-19 precautions, nutrition and gardening, talking with health providers, and even a virtual health fair. Many of these programs have been delivered by WMU health literacy interns and Homer Stryker medical school students. Come see what is happening and how health can be incorporated into tutoring.

Removing Barriers to Virtual Learning
Jacqueline Denoyer, Rose Fetzer, and Taylor Sayers
Connecting adult learners to virtual services can be a challenge, especially when they may lack  the literacy, language, or digital skills to engage in services independently. This session will  explain strategies for how to remove the barriers to virtual learning. It will also explain how to  establish a laptop loaning program and other supports to effectively connect learners to  services, including, ABE, ESL, and Adult Literacy students. The Kalamazoo Literacy Council’s  team of navigators has been successful in equipping learners and tutors to confidently engage  in virtual learning. We will demonstrate each step and share solutions to challenges that adult  learners, tutors, and instructors are likely to face.

Digital Divide Implications on Adult Learning
Michael D. Evans, Toni Woolfork-Barnes Ed.D.

The digital divide is impacting the way that learning occurs for adults and their families. In this  session we will share some of the challenges and changes that are taking place in adult  learning as a result of COVID-19. We will discuss recommendations and guidelines that were  developed by the Virtual Task force to strengthen the capacity to serve adults and their families  through distance learning. The goal is to align with community partners, share practices, and  leverage resources to achieve positive learning outcomes. We will also learn some of the best  practices that have been employed throughout the state and nationally from ongoing discussions led by MACAE, ProLiteracy, and others.


Ron Cisler, Dean and Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs

I came to WMU in the role as dean of the College of Health and Human Services in August 2018 after 25 years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I served various roles at WU-Milwaukee including scientist, professor, director of the Center for Urban Population Health, and associate director of the Center for Addiction and Behavioral Health Research. I have published extensively on assessing clincally-meaningful and interpretable alcohol-related outcomes of treatment as well as cost and cost-effectiveness of alcohol treatment. Over time, my research has expanded and broadened to address population-level outcomes of community-wide prevention programs including reducing teen births and decreasing the incidence of infant morbidity and mortality.

Kevin Morgan has served on the ProLiteracy board of directors since 2007. He was appointed interim President and CEO in November 2012, and became permanent President and CEO in February 2014.
He has led the restructure of the organization and the development of a new strategic plan to better serve the mission of developing and promoting adult literacy learning, content, programs, and advocacy.

Kevin has an extensive background in marketing and has worked on a wide variety of leading global and domestic brands including MasterCard, Agilent Technologies, Maxtor, Nissan, and Six Flags. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a master’s from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

Cyekeia Lee currently serves as the Director of Community Collaboration for The Kalamazoo Promise. In this role she works with community partners to identify and reduce educational disparities that impact students in Kalamazoo. Over the last 15 years her passion to eliminate barriers for students has included serving in various education roles. Prior to joining The Kalamazoo Promise she served as the Executive Director of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo, where she worked with nine school districts in Kalamazoo County on cradle to career initiatives. Additionally, she served as the Director of Higher Education Initiatives for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) where she worked with 23 states to implement postsecondary education pathways for students experiencing homelessness. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Eastern Michigan University, and a Master’s degree in Counseling from Wayne State University.

Dr. Luchara Wallace is the Director of the Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations and an Associate Professor in Special Education where she leads research and advocacy on topics such as juvenile incarceration, generational wealth attainment, and policies impacting families and individuals with disabilities. Prior to her appointment as Director of the Walker Institute, Dr. Wallace taught courses in the Learning Disabilities endorsement block and was a co-principal investigator on the Turnaround School Leaders Project, which was a federal grant designed to turnaround priority schools and develop a leadership pipeline within the partner districts. Dr. Wallace is currently engaging in research related to the development of an off-campus alternative to school suspension in an effort to interrupt the school to prison pipeline for at-risk middle and high school students. Most recently, Dr. Wallace developed a summer youth employment program based upon preliminary results from the alternative to school suspension research and feedback from incarcerated youth.

Dr. Elizabeth Isidro is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Studies at Western Michigan University. She also serves as the Director of the McGinnis Reading Center and Clinic, where she works with teacher candidates and families to support the literacy development of Prek-8th grade students. Her research interests center on developing novice teachers’ reading instruction to prepare them to teach students from diverse backgrounds, the use of multi-literacies in reading instruction, and the intersection of stories, response, and identity of readers.

Kym Hollars is the Adult Education and Training Manager for Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan, where she is responsible for directing the organization’s GED preparation program. She has been with Goodwill since 2012. She is a GED instructor with Kalamazoo Adult Education, where she teaches a class at Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Prior to her current position, she was the Navigation and Financial Wellness Manager at Goodwill, where she was responsible for increasing participants’ self-sufficiency by connecting team members to resources in their communities in all Goodwill locations in southwest Michigan. She is an expert Navigator and leads training workshops in the subject in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. Ms. Hollars is also an active volunteer with the KLC, serving as tutor, tutor trainer, and as the convener of the Navigator Work Group of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County.

Ms. Hollars earned her degree at Western Michigan University, where she majored in Elementary Education. She currently holds an active teaching certificate from the State of Michigan and is registered and certified to teach in the Kalamazoo Public Schools at an elementary school level. Her continuing education includes certification as a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) for healthcare in the marketplace.

Taylor Sayers is a 2020 graduate from Western Michigan University with a Bachelors in Social Work. She began with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council in March of 2020, just as the pandemic took everything virtual. In her role, she launched the first ever Parent Literacy Together program at KLC with the help of partners from Dorothy McGinnis Reading Clinic and Goodwill of Southwest Michigan. Upon her graduation in June, she was directly hired in to the role of Parent Literacy Navigator and has been loving it ever since. Taylor now oversees the Parent Literacy Together program, and also Health Literacy. She plans to continue using her role, and her social work background, to empower learners. 

Jessi Pavey is the Operations Manager for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, where she is responsible for assisting the organization’s more than 700 learners in reaching their goals. In 2011, she joined the organization as a work study student from Davenport University. Within a year, she was promoted to  Student Services Coordinator. She is certified as a data management specialist and is regarded as an expert in multiple data and computer-based instruction platforms, including MAERS, PLATO Courseware, CASAS, and TABE. She developed the KLC’s Computer Class curriculum and trains volunteers as instructors. She also is a trained Navigator and assists in training new Navigators. 

Jacqueline Denoyer is the ESL Adult Learning Services Navigator at the KLC where she supports English Language Learners and volunteer tutors in the ESL of SW Michigan program. Jacqueline joined the KLC just before the pandemic and has been instrumental in moving our ESL program online and helping with efforts to bridge the digital divide for these motivated learners. She is a qualified court and community interpreter in Spanish and English and interpreter trainer. Jacqueline holds a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. She served as a Basic Sanitation Volunteer in Peace Corps Bolivia and has worked in construction in the US and Bolivia. She has worked as a translator from Spanish to English for over 10 years. She served as one of the Directors at the Centro Boliviana Americano in Tarija, Bolivia, where she was also a youth mentor for their high school leadership program.

Rose Fetzer joined the KLC as an Adult Learning Services Navigator in October 2020. In her role she empowers learners to continue their education towards a GED, Digital Literacy, JOBS skills, and more through virtual learning. Rose has a BA in Human Resources and uses this background to make connections between learners and employers. She has a passion for community service and helping where there is a need. She is excited to be a part of this great team and promote literacy in Kalamazoo!    

Dr. Doris Ravotas is the coordinator for the Westwood Literacy center and a tenured faculty member of Western Michigan University. She teaches health literacy practices for future health providers and present practitioners. She is a member of the KLC/WMU Literacy Advisory Board. She also leads the Health Literacy tutor forums and the Health Literacy workgroup for KLC. Her Ph.D. in Communications includes specializations in literacy, linguistics, and usability testing applied to health communications. She is also the chair of the Code of Ethics committee within the International Health Literacy Association.

Madison Banks is an intern and Health Literacy instructor at the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. She is an Interdisciplinary Health Services major at Western Michigan University and plans to participate in the occupational doctorate program in the Summer of 2021. Madison has a deep interest in creative practices and helping others.

Hailey Beyer is a senior at Western Michigan University. After graduating this December with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Services, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health in the Fall of 2021. Hailey became an intern for the Kalamazoo Literacy Council in September and took on the role as a Health Literacy instructor. A little fun fact about Hailey is that she loves to travel to national parks and have visited 12 of them so far.

Naomi Oshitani moved to the United States when her husband took a job in Kalamazoo. She was a dental hygienist and a yoga instructor in Japan. She has been an English language learner at KLC for six months. She continued with online classes as soon as the transition to virtual was made. She has remained highly active in the KLC programs despite the fact that she and her husband moved to Tennessee in the summer. 

Michael D. Evans is Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council (KLC) and has been with the organization since August 2010. He is the facilitator of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County, which serves as a forum to determine adult literacy priorities, identify and expand resources, and align services and programs in the county. Evans is Vice-Chair of the Region 8 Regional Prosperity Initiative for the State of Michigan. He serves as the Co-Director of the Adult Literacy Research and Training Symposium, which is hosted annually in collaboration with Western Michigan University. He serves on the Advisory Board for the WMU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and on the Board of Directors of Family & Children Services. Before coming to the KLC, Evans worked for 15 years in the nonprofit sector in Battle Creek with several organizations including Community Inclusive Recreation, Summit Pointe, and New Level Sports. He was Executive Director of Heritage Battle Creek and the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek and has served on many statewide boards, including the Michigan Humanities Council, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission, and the Michigan Association of Cultural Arts Associations.

Dr. Toni Woolfork-Barnes is the director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Western Michigan University. She has enjoyed serving in this role for almost 18 months. Working with the OLLI leadership and volunteers has truly been a blessing and the highlight of Toni’s time with OLLI. Additionally, having the opportunity for OLLI to collaborate and partner with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council brings special meaning to lifelong learning. This partnership provides the opportunity to impact the community in ways that bring value, ultimately helping to impact the overall quality of life for so many across a wide demographic for whom OLLI and the KLC serves. Toni is the wife of Ollie III and mother of Ollie IV, the two loves of her life. She is an accomplished photographer, loves to read and she is actively engaged in her community. Toni believes the scripture which says to whom much is given, much is expected and therefore, she tries to live her life accordingly, as she has been blessed beyond measure.