Center director recognized for contributions to adult education field

Story by Danielle Burton

Chelsea Stewart, director of the Adult Basic Education Training and Learning Center, recently received a major award from the Colorado Adult Education Professional Association.

Stewart received the Adult Education Leader of the Year Award from the association.

Chelsea Stewart, director of the Adult Basic Education Training and Learning Center

As director of the ABE-TLC, Stewart organizes professional development, technical assistance and training for 31 adult education programs and 300-500 instructors around the state. The ABE-TLC is federally funded through a grant from the Department of Education that aims to promote adult literacy. Various programs around the state address the needs in their area, ranging from basic literacy to GED preparations to learning English. In 2014, these programs reached 10,000 to 11,000 learners.

Stewart’s impact

In addition to the many learners and educators the ABE-TLC has affected, Stewart’s dedication to learner success has had a positive impact on the adult education field. She has been working to increase program accessibility for both learners and educators, and to make professional development more meaningful and impactful for instructors.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work the last couple of years to move our professional learning more toward local and professional learning communities, as well as toward the type of work that is research-based to show that it changes practice as an alternative to the way professional development has happened in the past,” Stewart said.

When asked why Stewart was nominated and chosen for the Adult Education Leader of the Year Award, Colorado Adult Education Professional Association board member Lisa Taylor said: “We received several nominations for Adult Education Leader of the Year, but Chelsea was an absolute standout. She works with educators and directors all over the state that come from varying backgrounds and have very diverse needs within their programs, but somehow Chelsea finds a way to address those concerns with a myriad of solutions, all of which come from her being such an attentive listener and passionate advocate for adult learners in our state. Her work in and for this field is to be commended for both its creativity and its pragmatism. In a year of transitions with new legislation and new leadership at the state level, we are fortunate to have Chelsea working to ensure that adult learners in Colorado are set up for success. CAEPA was delighted to give her this award and is grateful for the expertise and professionalism with which she conducts trainings for teachers and administrators all over Colorado.”

Stewart’s goal for adult education

Stewart’s work does not end with this recognition. Changes in Colorado legislation require adult education programs to focus on developing postsecondary and workforce readiness. The goal is to help learners develop basic skills and to help them find a career pathway that can provide stability.

“That’s something we’re working very diligently toward,” Stewart said. “It’s a major shift for our programs because it’s been a lot more community-based, a lot more life skills-based, with the ultimate goal being to get your high school equivalency. They’re great goals, and now we’re in this period of transition, integrating more online learning and access in ways that we can make that leap effectively with our learners.”

Not only is Stewart dedicated to promoting best practices that align with legislation goals, she pulls in passionate instructors from around the state to increase the credibility of best classroom practices in order to make professional development more relevant and practical.

“She is an incredible asset to adult educators and learners alike, and Colorado is lucky to have her,” said Taylor.

The Adult Basic Education Training and Learning Center, known as ABE-TLC, is housed within and collaborates with Colorado State University’s School of Education, which is part of the College of Health and Human Sciences.