Celebration of Learning is an annual gathering to honor the hard work of our learners. Despite life’s challenges, our learners have persevered in their efforts to improve their English, reading, writing, math, and other literacy skills. Congratulations to this year’s award recipients!

Instead of the usual potluck dinner, tutors and learners have come together to contribute favorite recipes to our Celebration of Learning Cookbook! We also invite you to explore the Stars newsletter and Literacy Mic podcast!

We hope you’ll take a moment to leave a message in our Guest Book, or check out messages that others have left.

A welcome from our Executive Director, Amy Goodman
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Welcome to the 2021 Celebration of Learning event. I’m Amy Goodman, Director of Washtenaw Literacy. Our annual event celebrating the achievements of our learners and tutors is always inspiring. Even though we cannot be together–but soon! I miss your company. I miss recognizing personal achievements. And I confess, I miss the fabulous international potluck that we usually enjoy when we’re together.


But this virtual celebration is extraordinary. This Celebration of Learning website will be live through July, so you will have lots of time to return, explore more, and share with friends and family. Many thanks to the tutors and learners who contributed, and to Kim Ellerthorpe and Jen Musser, who created this special online gathering place.


Please scroll down to the main event: our featured learners and tutors. But don’t miss clicking through to the cookbook, the special edition of Stars, our learners’ publication, and to Literacy Mic, Washtenaw Literacy’s podcast, this time featuring more stories.


Congratulations to all. Have fun with the online event and share the inspiration with others. My heartfelt thank you to all you do to build literacy in the community.


Learner Awards


Congratulations to our award recipients! Not shown is the Donna DeButts Leadership Award. Donna was one of the first paid staff members at Washtenaw Literacy, and this award is in recognition of leadership qualities demonstrated by a learner. This year’s recipient prefers to not be visible on the Internet.

Amanda Coulter Persistence Award – Wesam Otaifah
In honor of Amanda Coulter’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s commitment and perseverance towards achieving a goal in higher education.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Amanda Coulter Persistence Award to Wesam Otaifah.
In honor of Amanda Coulter’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s commitment and perseverance towards achieving a goal in higher education.


Here is what tutor Daniella Fay had to say about Wesam:
Wesam has maintained a strong commitment to learning this year despite extremely challenging circumstances. She has two grade school children she has been supporting at home and also two preschool children. She has chosen some difficult community college courses requiring complex vocabulary and a high time commitment. She is self-motivated and always wants to achieve her best academically whilst being a support to her family. She is a pleasure to work with, reliable and responsive.


In gratitude, Wesam would like to share the following remarks:
Dear Daniella Fay,

I am writing this letter to thank and appreciate your support. Tutoring has improved me a lot. I am comfortable more than in the past. With tutoring, I am doing great in my college and my grades are high. I started working as a teacher assistant and that means a lot to me. In addition, I am so comfortable with speaking which make it easier to communicate with people.

The essential thing that I have learned is how to read for my kids and how to teach them. As a result, their education has improved so much.

I dedicate my success to who is been in front of me when I need help, Ms. Fay. Thanks so much for your support, kindness, and commitment.

Christine G. Kamisar Award – Yuki Fujiwara
This award is in memory of Christine Kamisar who was a Washtenaw Literacy tutor. Her husband sponsors this award in her honor every year.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Christine G. Kamisar Award to Yuki Fujiwara.
This award is in memory of Christine Kamisar who was a Washtenaw Literacy tutor. Her husband sponsors this award in her honor every year.


Here is what tutor Lee Olsen had to say about Yuki:
Yuki Fujiwara is a dedicated English learner who deserves special recognition this year, because throughout months of limited socializing, she has remained focused on developing her ability to converse easily with the people in her life. Her approach is notable, because she identifies situations in which she wants to speak fluently, such as talking after school with her son’s teacher, and builds her English practice around relevant vocabulary, expressions, questions, and topics.


I am honored to share Yuki’s acceptance of her learner award. Here it is:
I am very honored to receive the award.

I’m always excited to learn English after I came to the United States. I enjoyed joining an “in person” ESL until coronavirus pandemic in early March last year. It changed our lifestyle. I couldn’t have opportunity enough to use English. But my teacher Lee resumed the class by on line soon. I was really happy. I appreciate it.

English is difficult but it is also interesting. I’d like to keep to learn English for good.

Thank you.

Ernestine Trammell Memorial Award – Alan Cooper
Sponsored by the Trammell family, this award is given to recognize a learner who overcomes challenges to achieve their educational goals.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Ernestine Trammell Memorial Award to Alan Cooper.
Sponsored by the Trammell family, this award is given to recognize a learner who overcomes challenges to achieve their educational goals.


Here is what tutor Sally Katchorek had to say about Alan:
Alan has done an amazing job of adapting to online learning. At first neither of us knew how to handle the situation, but thanks to Jennifer and the staff, he was able to obtain a computer and learn how to share info with me. Alan will tackle any topic with vigor, pre-reading material I send him prior to our tutoring session. He is more and more willing to take on challenges. We still are awaiting the time when we can work in person.


In gratitude, Alan would like to share the following remarks:
Hi. My name is Alan David Cooper. I am a student at Washtenaw Literacy and WCC. I’m here today to tell you about myself and WCC GED study. What I have to say is how I have come a long way in my GED studies — study — and tutoring. My tutor, my Washtenaw Literacy tutor, is Sally, and Sally has been helping me with my GED. Sally is very helpful teaching me everything that I need to know to complete my GED. So far in the years that I have been trying to pass my GED tests that I have to have, I have been trying to complete each test that I have to take to complete my GED. I am looking forward to passing my GED at WCC.

Grace Pang Determination Award – Zobaida Ahmadzai
In honor of Grace Pang’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s dedication and motivation towards obtaining citizenship.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Grace Pang Determination Award to Zobaida Ahmadzai.
In honor of Grace Pang’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s dedication and motivation towards obtaining citizenship.


Here is what tutor Dallas Moore had to say about Zobaida:
Zobaida and her husband and two children came to the United States from Afghanistan by way of Pakistan five years ago. Her third son was born here. In September of 2019, Harry Marsden and I started tutoring a citizenship preparation group at the Madina Center in Ypsilanti. Zobaida was one of the first learners to come to the group, and we have worked with her in person and on Zoom since then.

She has studied hard, working her way through the civics questions and improving her English speaking, comprehension, reading and writing. The citizenship interview tests all these skills, using an extensive vocabulary. Zobaida attended our classes and studied while all the time managing a household and taking care of her three energetic boys. On March 18, she passed her citizenship interview and, by the time you read this, will have had her oath ceremony and will be a citizen of the United States. Harry and I both know the country is better for having her as a citizen.

A footnote: Her husband Yousuf also passed his interview in March and will be taking the oath soon. We welcome Zobaida and Yousuf and are happy to have them as fellow citizens!


In gratitude, Zobaida would like to share the following remarks:
Dear Dallas and Harry,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to appreciate and thank you and Mr. Harry for your all support and assistance that you have done for me so far. You and Mr. Harry are phenomenal and you have been very supportive, compassionate and helpful in preparing me for my citizenship classes.

Likewise, you worked very hard during the past 12 months and prepared me for my citizenship test. Consequently, I passed my citizenship test and I became U.S citizen, it is to be mentioned that without you and Harry it would been very challenging and impossible for me to pass the citizenship test.

I am very excited and happy to be selected for this award, I thank you very much and all of the people who are involved in teaching citizenship classes. I also would like to appreciate and thank those who worked hard and provided this opportunity for us to learn citizenship materials without any difficulties.

Furthermore: Learning citizenship materials was a big challenge for me, and it was not easy to memorize every single words. I almost gave up, however, you and Mr. Harry inspired and motivated me to continue with the classes. As result, I am a U.S citizen now, and that is because of Ms. Dallas and Mr. Harry and all of the people who are involved in providing such opportunities to individuals who want to become U.S citizen.

Also, participating in citizenship classes helped me improved my English as well. I learned a lot of big words while taking citizenship classes.

God bless you all.

Your sincerely Zobaida Ahmadzai

LIFT Award – Julinda Dashi
This award is in recognition of the motivation and perseverance of a learner in our LIFT (Learning is a Family Thing) program.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s LIFT Award to Julinda Dashi.
This award is in recognition of the motivation and perseverance of a learner in our LIFT program.


Here is what tutor Bonnie Flanders had to say about Julinda:
First of all, Julinda and I text every day and share things going on in each of our lives. She never forgets to do this. She has always let me know what she wants to do; for example, she wanted to read a book together. We started with a book at a third grade reading level. It’s a chapter book and there are some very adult situations in the story, such as a lonely child whose mother left her and her father. There’s some prejudices involved also. I emailed her questions to respond to and then we met via FaceTime to discuss them. She has been very honest and insightful in her responses. In addition, she has kept a running vocabulary dictionary in a notebook I gave her. We talk about the words in the context of the story and she writes, in her own words, the meanings. She makes this list herself.

Our FaceTimes can be challenging as she has a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old who demand her attention. We have worked out with the girls that I will spend time with them when we are done.

We finished this book and then Julinda asked to read an adult romance, which we are doing now in much the same fashion. We have wonderful discussions and her English and reading skills are really improving. She works very hard on her reading, speaking, and growing vocabulary.


In gratitude, Julinda would like to share the following remarks:
Hi, Jennifer. This video is for you and for Bonnie. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me. When I come for first time here in the USA, everything would be hard, because you know a new life, new country. But more important is language. Now with you and Bonnie, my life is very easy. Thank you so much both, and I love you.

Richard and Edna Townsend Memorial Award – Barbara Smith
This award is in memory of one of the first supporters of Washtenaw Literacy. Today, Richard and Edna’s daughters continue to sponsor the award in memory of their parents.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Richard and Edna Townsend Memorial Award to Barbara Smith.
This award is in memory of one of the first supporters of Washtenaw Literacy. Today, Richard and Edna’s daughters continue to sponsor the award in memory of their parents.


Here is what tutor Erin Howarth had to say about Barbara:
Throughout virtual tutoring, Barbara’s enthusiasm and joy has never flagged. She’s been battling health issues since November and sitting in one place can be quite painful for her. Nevertheless, she cheerfully tackles everything I throw at her and never complains, even when the material becomes difficult. She doesn’t make excuses for what she can’t do, and focuses on improving her skills with good humor, despite the various distractions and annoyances of learning through a screen. Every session with Barbara is truly a delight.


In gratitude, Barbara would like to share the following remarks:
Thanks to Erin to nominating me. Erin always makes my sessions fun and makes me feel good about myself. I am so fortunate to have her as my tutor.

Tony Derezinski Vision Award – Dominique Peterson
In honor of Tony Derezinski’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s diligence and progress made towards achieving a career goal.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Tony Derezinski Vision Award to Dominique Peterson.
In honor of Tony Derezinski’s Board service to improve literacy in our community, this award is given to recognize a learner’s diligence and progress made towards achieving a career goal.


Here is what tutor John Mesberg had to say about Dominique:
Dominique exhibits all the characteristics of a successful learner. She is diligent about her work, attends sessions consistently with virtually no absences, and is always eager to improve her skills and knowledge. This year she achieved her goal of gaining employment in childcare which she refers to as her “dream job”. It’s been a pleasure to teach Dominique, and I know she will continue to learn and grow.


In gratitude, Dominique would like to share the following remarks:
Hi. I would like to say thank you for this award, it mean so much to me. Also I would like to say thank you to my tutor John. Thank you for challenge me with my schoolwork.

Virtual Learning Inspiration Award – Raja Ben Sik Ali
This award is in recognition of the dedication and motivation shown by a learner in our virtual tutoring program.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Virtual Learning Inspiration Award to Raja Ben Sik Ali.
This award is in recognition of the dedication and motivation shown by a learner in our virtual tutoring program.


Here is what tutor Sarah Gehani had to say about Raja:
The one striking thing about Raja is that she always wants to be challenged — whether it is grammar, reading and comprehension, or vocabulary. She has an insatiable appetite to ‘learn more’ and works very hard at improving her speaking skills. She never wants to end our session early even when I can see that she’s mentally tired.


In gratitude, Raja would like to share the following remarks:
When I started this class, I was not very confident because I had a very low level in English. At the same time, I was very excited to begin this experience.

I felt I was progressing through every class. I particularly want to thank my teacher Sarah for all she has done for me. She gave me confidence in myself when I spoke English. I really loved the way she taught me and I’m planning to take other English classes.

I also want to thank Washtenaw Literacy for giving me the opportunity to learn English.

Women’s Literacy Achievement Award – Daniela Menezes
This award is sponsored by Lori Davis. Lori was a former staff member of Washtenaw Literacy. It is given in recognition of a woman who has made great strides in improving her literacy skills.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Women’s Literacy Achievement Award to Daniela Menezes.
This award is sponsored by Lori Davis. Lori was a former staff member of Washtenaw Literacy. It is given in recognition of a woman who has made great strides in improving her literacy skills.


Here is what Program Manager and tutor Alison Austin had to say about Daniela:
Daniela has worked hard, attending multiple sessions every week with barely an absence during the pandemic while raising 2 school-aged boys. She’s shy but is always willing to try to answer questions in groups and share her ideas. She has a killer vocabulary which she has worked hard at, hoping to pass the TOEFL.


In gratitude, Daniela would like to share the following remarks:
To Washtenaw Literacy program,

I would immensely appreciate you all for this wonderful and remarkable work. This program has been done a lot for me, and I’m pretty sure that it’s been done the same to many other learners.

I have recently read that “language gives us power”, and I couldn’t agree more with it. Being able to communicate our ideas, thoughts, feelings and desires is priceless. And you all are part of the process to give to students this power.

Thanks so much for your support, kindness and commitment.

Alison, many thanks for your brilliant leadership. You have this mission and you make the difference in many lives.

Sincerely,

Daniela Menezes


Tutor Awards


The Founders Award – Sally Katchorek
The Founders Award is presented in honor of the original Washtenaw Literacy founders, and recognizes the dedication and passion of all volunteers. It is presented to a tutor dedicated to Washtenaw Literacy’s mission and who embodies the agency spirit by being a lifeline of hope to an adult learner.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s The Founders Award to Sally Katchorek.
The Founders Award is presented in honor of the original Washtenaw Literacy founders, and recognizes the dedication and passion of all volunteers. It is presented to a tutor dedicated to Washtenaw Literacy’s mission and who embodies the agency spirit by being a lifeline of hope to an adult learner.


In gratitude, Sally would like to share the following remarks:
This has been a challenging year. Washtenaw Literacy staff has provided training so we don’t feel lost as we use totally unfamiliar methods to communicate. After a few months of being a learner — working with Zoom, figuring out how to work over the phone, and generally getting used to talking with people through this space we call WiFi — I felt able to work with my learners again.

During these months, I wanted to be sure the learner did not give up, as they were equally inexperienced in using the internet. One learner has no internet in his apartment and had no computer. Thankfully, the Washtenaw Literacy staff found him a laptop and showed him how to download reading material by using WiFi at McDonald’s. Now we can each see the reading on our computer while we talk on the phone. He is especially committed to learning as much as he can.

The commitment of my learners keeps me motivated to find meaningful material to help them reach, work toward their goals. I encourage anyone, learner or tutor, to step into virtual learning. Being of a certain age, not even knowing about computers until I was an adult, made this especially challenging but worth every minute.

Virtual Tutor Award – Miranda Michalski-Brockhaus
This award is in recognition of a new tutor who is dedicated to Washtenaw Literacy’s mission and who is flexible in fostering learning in any environment.
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Washtenaw Literacy proudly presents this year’s Virtual Tutor Award to Miranda Michalski-Brockhaus.
This award is in recognition of a new tutor who is dedicated to Washtenaw Literacy’s mission and who is flexible in fostering learning in any environment.


In gratitude, Miranda would like to share the following remarks:
Thank you very much for this Celebration of Learning Virtual Tutor Award. I’m excited about this. I’m thrilled to be able to help Washtenaw Literacy provide literacy support free of charge, and I extremely appreciate the training that Washtenaw Literacy has given me so that I can do that, especially with the virtual environment and everything that’s going on.

I’m thrilled to be able to help my learners. I’m so glad that they join me every week and that we have a chance to talk, and I learn so much about their culture and just things in their lives that I wouldn’t have seen before.

So I’m really appreciative of this, and I’m glad to be able to help, and I look forward to doing this for a long time.

Thank you again for this award.


Fun Links


Link to Washtenaw Literacy's podcast.
Link to Washtenaw Literacy's main page.