And the Literacy Leadership Award Goes to… Minnesota ABE Teaching and Learning Advancement System (ATLAS) @ Hamline University

Featured accepting the award from Silja Kallenbach are Dr. Patsy Egan, Director of ATLAS and Marisa Squadrito Geisler, ATLAS Operations Manager at the awards event held on October 4, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Photo Credit: Heather Tatton-Harris

When it comes to adult literacy education, professional development is not just a nice thing to offer teachers, it’s essential.  In order to provide high quality instruction in literacy, numeracy, and high school equivalency, and prepare adults for success in college and careers, we must provide in-service training.  Many adult educators do not have a degree in adult education.  And, of course, our understanding of what constitutes high quality practice changes in adult education as it does in other fields.

Professional development (PD) providers are often unsung heroes of adult education, charged with promoting and ensuring program and instructional quality.  That is why it gave me great pleasure, as a Board member of the National Coalition for Literacy, to present one of the four 2017 National Literacy Leadership Awards to the Minnesota ABE Teaching and Learning Advancement System (ATLAS) at Hamline University School of Education.  ATLAS is one of the premier ABE/ESOL PD centers in the U.S.; it is highly practitioner-centered and innovative.  ATLAS is known for providing high quality, evidence-based PD.  For example, their ongoing adult numeracy initiative is a comprehensive, creative, and sustained professional learning effort that has produced national adult numeracy leaders. This is not accidental – they intentionally cultivate teacher leadership.

ATLAS has helped to improve national adult literacy practice.  The Transitions Integration Framework developed by ATLAS has informed our national adult education PD practice at World Education. It defines the academic, career, and employability skills essential for adult learners to successfully transition to postsecondary education, career training, the workplace, and community involvement.  And the Framework is available free of charge as are all the resources developed by ATLAS, right on their website.

We at World Education have collaborated with ATLAS on several projects over the years. For example, we led the evaluation of their math PD initiative.  This year, our New England Literacy Resource Center and the ATLAS Center are piloting a PD exchange designed to bring the special expertise of each center to the other’s constituency of practitioners. This exchange maximizes resources by extending the field’s access to PD opportunities and leaders in the field.

Every state needs a PD center like ATLAS.  We at World Education, along with the National Coalition for Literacy, thank ATLAS for your exemplary work and collaboration over the years. Congratulations for your National Literacy Leadership award on your 10th anniversary!


The annual Literacy Leadership Awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to improving adult literacy in the United States. The other 2017 award recipients were:

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), for her long-standing dedication to our nation’s adult literacy and language programs and her efforts to safeguard education and other critical programs that ensure equal employment opportunity for adults with low literacy levels, most recently as Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Stephen Reder, Professor Emeritus of Applied Linguistics, Portland State University, for his tireless advocacy for adult learners and the field of adult education, and for his extensive research on the impacts of adult literacy skills attainment, culminating in the 10-year Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning that has demonstrated the correlation between participation in adult education and increases in income, educational attainment, and civic participation.

Sharon Darling, Founder and President, the National Center for Families Learning, for her key role in recognizing the critical link between parents’ education and their children’s learning, and for her nearly three decades of leadership in establishing a nationwide network of programs that provide high quality, accessible family-based education and that have helped over one million vulnerable families learn and thrive together.

Published by

Silja Kallenbach

Silja Kallenbach

Silja is the Vice President of World Education, Inc. where she oversees the operations of WEI’s U.S. Division. Silja has 34 years of experience in adult education as administrator, professional development provider, program developer, researcher, and teacher. Silja is the recipient of the 2014 national award for Promoting Literacy Nationally and Internationally, issued by the Commission on Adult Basic Education.