Laubach Literacy Ontario held another successful conference. This year, 238 practitioners, staff, and students – the highest number yet to attend an LLO conference – made their way to Georgian College in Barrie for the 2009 Sharing Pearls of Wisdom Conference. Pearls were chosen as a theme to commemorate the Barrie Literacy Council's 30th anniversary. The June 11 to 14 conference certainly lived up to its name, giving participants the opportunity to gain pearls of wisdom from presenters, and share their own knowledge with others.
Four high-quality days
LLO and the Barrie Literacy Council partnered with the Simcoe/Muskoka Literacy Network to offer four days of high-quality workshops, networking opportunities and entertainment. The 27 different workshops covered a wide range of topics from Workforce Literacy to successful Employment Ontario transitions to academic upgrading/GED to general interest. This year’s conference also included Employment Ontario Networking Exhibits on display throughout the weekend for those interested in learning more.
Guest speakers drew tears
Also sharing pearls of wisdom were a number of guest speakers. Garfield Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North, spoke to an eager audience about the importance of promoting literacy. Spider Jones, the highly popular motivation speaker brought many to tears with his inspiring journey from the inner-city projects of Detroit and Windsor to returning to school at 30 to become an honour student. Last but certainly not least, Gary Porter, Chair of the Barrie Literacy Council and LLO Board member, talked about his coming to the Barrie council to improve his literacy skills and eventually earn his GED, again drawing tears from the audience. The three speakers reminded participants that the sharing knowledge is vital to the success of students and the promotion of literacy.
New Board elected
The Friday night LLO AGM introduced LLO Board for 2009-2010. LLO welcomed back Sue Bannon (President; Midland), Carol Risidore (Vice President; Kitchener), Jane Jackson (Secretary; North Bay), Keith Allen (Student Representative; North Bay), Joanne Prior (Treasurer; Barrie), Gary Porter (Member at Large; Barrie), and Helen McLeod (Member at Large; Hamilton). New faces Isabel Mosseler (Member at Large; Sturgeon Falls) and Jennifer Ellis (Member at Large; Midland) were also given a warm welcome.
Retiring Board members, staff, trainers recognized
The Saturday night banquet was also an opportunity to acknowledge the hard-work and accomplishments of students, staff and practitioners in the literacy field. Gifts were presented to out-going Board members Val Sadler (Hamilton) and Connie Morgan (Barrie), who both contributed immensely to the advancement of literacy. The effort and commitment of LLO staff, Lana Faessler (Executive Director) and Mary Anne Baker (Office Manager) was recognized with a gift of beautiful glass vases. Connie Morgan also acknowledged the hard work of Trainers, presenting them with brand new magnetic name tags.
Arnie Stewart Award
This year’s winner of the Arnie Stewart Individual Achievement Award was Mike Chamberlain of Newmarket, who has made immense progress and is now a writer of both songs and essays, among his other talents. The award recognizes the accomplishments of a learner who has overcome barriers, become a mentor to others, and has given back to his or her Council by raising awareness. Marg Fogarty (Grand Erie DSB, Brantford) was the first runner up and Barbara Johnson (Open Door Centre, Waterloo), who was unable to attend, was the second runner up.
Lana Faessler Award
New President, Sue Bannon of Midland, was the recipient of the 2009 Lana Faessler Outstanding Service Award, given to an employee of a member council who has contributed a great deal of time, knowledge and support to the literacy field. Sue will certainly continue to raise awareness of literacy as she begins her term as LLO President. She accepted the award with a rousing speech, encouraging the audience to participate in upcoming plans to have a Literacy Action Day at Queen’s Park in the fall.
Karaoke a hit
While there was lots of learning and business to be done, the conference was also about fun. After the Saturday banquet, participants let their hair down for a night of dancing and karaoke. LLO Idol judges Simon (Connie Morgan), Randy (Joanne Prior), and Paula (Mary Anne Baker) returned as tough as ever, and 20 brave competitors faced their judgment. Hamilton proved they have talent, with both student Cliff McGill and staff member Bonnie Atkinson taking home awards for their outstanding voices. Leonard Lavoie (Sturgeon Falls) also entertained, earning himself a spot in the winner’s circle.
Round table Sunday
After the festivities of Saturday evening, participants had a calming Sunday morning of round table discussion and a barbecue lunch before heading home. As they said goodbye to old and new friends, they carried home with them memories and, of course, many pearls of wisdom.
See you next year?
Thank you everyone who helped to make this conference a successful one, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!