Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mrs. Suitt goes to Washington!

COABE Capitol Hill Day 2017

I had the great pleasure and honor to attend the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) Capitol Hill Day on September 26th, 2017.  As COABE’s Student Engagement Chair, I was most excited about offering some training for student leaders and being present for the first ever student run meeting with Robin Juliano, from the House Committee on Appropriations.  Robin was extremely impressed by the students!

Maria Alvidrez, from the wonderful Queen Creek Adult Education Program represented AZ and attended all of my visits.  We met with staff in Rep. Gallego, Rep. Grijalva and Senator Flake’s office and met with Rep. O’Halleran.

The student Ambassadors did a phenomenal job running the meeting, telling their stories in a succinct and powerful way, asking great questions, answering Ms. Juliano’s questions and building a relationship with her.

Thanks to creator mamas Ami Magisos and Jennifer Stanowski, ring leaders Laura Porfirio and Mireya Escamillo who took Ambassadors from an internal training to an AALL sponsored statewide training and Kathy Budway who continued to nurture and improve the Ambassador Program…. It’s going NATIONAL.

COABE received funding from Dollar General and Aztec to fund Capitol Hill Day and to fund more adult learners and program teams getting trained on how to do their own Ambassador Programs.  A Train the Trainer session will be offered at COABE 2018 in Phoenix.

Next year, I hope to have triple the number of Ambassadors hitting the hill with their state association representatives.  At this year’s debrief, EVERY single person (50+) said that the student stories were the most powerful part of the visit.  Not just for the policy makers, but also for the staff.  Even those educators who had been in the field for decades learned something new.  Students, staff and policymakers were all transformed!

COABE’s Educate and Elevate campaign has already impacted the field.  Over 30,000+ contacts were made just prior to our Hill visits, so many staff and members already knew a little about adult education.

As I’ve said a hundred times, or so….

The best advocates are our students and successful advocacy includes three very important parts:

Data + Stories + Relationships 

We were lucky to have utilized each part successfully on our Capitol Hill Day 2017.

I have also included some of COABE’s fact sheets below:



Student Ambassadors Testify

On May 16th, 2017 two adult education ambassadors from Pima College Adult Basic Education for College and Career spoke eloquently before the Pima County Board of Supervisors thanking them for their support of adult education.

Recent GED graduate, Student Leadership Council Representative and AmeriCorps member, Alejandra de la Rosa shared her story about taking the GED exam and passing all of her tests. She also told the Pima County government representatives that her AmeriCorps service as a math tutor for other adult education students at the El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center helped her discover that she has a talent for teaching.  She is now reconsidering her career path. Alejandra will walk with hundreds of other HSE graduates on June 1st at the Tucson Convention Center at 7:00pm.

Faith Kelleher also expressed her gratitude for the County’s support. She told Supervisors that adult basic education helped her “get her life back.”  Faith’s heroic story of being abducted as a child and then escaping from a human trafficking ring in the US brought the audience to tears. After she earns her diploma, she wants to become a social worker and assist other young women and girls who have suffered in similar circumstances.  In the meantime, she enjoys the freedom to study math, reading and writing at the  29th St. Coalition Center. Faith also shares her story with other survivors about the necessity and benefits of community programs such as The Gospel Rescue Mission and Pima College Adult Basic Education.

National Volunteer Recognition Week!

Pima Community College Adult Basic Education for College and Career will recognize the amazing community members who work alongside our teachers and support staff to serve over 5,000 students every year. We could not do the work we do without the help of our dedicated volunteers. Our volunteers work as classroom aides, one-on-one tutors, English club facilitators, computer and math lab assistants, and Transition to Jobs and Citizenship teachers.

There are volunteers at all three learning centers and many of our other Pima College locations working to help students increase their math skills, learn how to write descriptive essays, practice their job interview skills, and gain fluency in English.

Currently, we have 36 tutors, classroom aides, and English Club facilitators, 15 citizenship teachers and substitutes, and 3 Transition to Jobs volunteers.

Since July of 2016 through March 2017, volunteers have logged 1,091 service hours!

Our longest serving volunteer, Pete Yonsetto, has been a citizenship teacher for 17 years, teaching US history, civics and government to students preparing to become US citizens.Pete and Students

Pete says:   I am quite humbled to witness and be in the presence of such hard working, modest immigrants. They will grace our country with pride and joy, committed to bring their rich culture to our great nation and be wonderful stewards of this country.”

What teachers and students say:

“If you teach a multilevel class as I do, your volunteers are indispensable. Besides being proficient in their subject area, they need to develop a good working relationship with the students, they need to work well independently and they need to monitor each student’s progress so that they can provide me with valuable feedback. I appreciate their efforts and I know that I could not conduct a successful class without them.”

“Susan has been wonderful in addressing Marian’s goals. She has been very consistent and flexible, and has managed to keep Marian motivated to continue and be excited about learning.”

“What Ed, Ginnie, and Caroll are doing for our students goes way beyond investing the time to prepare materials then stand in front of a classroom. Their wealth of knowledge and experience in the US workplace paired with their supportive approach is exactly what our students need to be able to make it to the next level. The Transition to Jobs class wouldn’t be as rich and engaging without their contribution.”

“The Transition to Jobs class has been a wonderful experience, has helped me to better understand the US labor culture as well as to present my skills and work experience in a more professional way.

“Do your little bit of good wherever you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  -Desmond Tutu

The work our volunteers do is transformative. On behalf of Pima Community College, our Adult Basic Education Division and all our students…. Thank you! We extend our gratitude and admiration to all of our volunteers. You represent the mission, vision and values of ABECC, and our philosophy of being student centered.

Content + Confidence = Math Bridge

“My confidence in math greatly improved. No more math anxiety.”

The Adult Basic Education for College & Career division at PCC is working hard to help students transition into college or onto new career pathways. One way we do this is by offering accelerated Math Bridge classes to all PCC students at Northwest, Desert Vista and East campuses, every spring and fall semester. These intensive classes are 7 weeks long, and meet for 12 hours a week. If you do the math, that’s 84 hours of instruction -nearly double that of a regular class, yet taught in less than half a semester’s time!  This model allows students to immerse in the content of the class and move faster toward their goals.

Math Bridge classes are unique in a number of different ways. First, they are no-cost and non-credit, so students don’t have to use up their finances or time while they strengthen their foundational skills and knowledge of the college.  Both ABE and Dev Ed students attend classes together.

Another difference is how Math Bridge classes approach teaching math. Instead of trying to cram in as many lessons in operations-based math skills as possible in 7 weeks, the instructors focus on developing a deeper, conceptual understanding of the math. This not only has shown to help students perform better on assessments such as the Compass test or the GED, but students have also consistently reported a significant increase in their confidence with math.

 “I feel a lot more confident in math especially since I have not taken it for 16 years. Being in the classroom and working with my peers has been great too! This 3 hour class feels so short to me. I really enjoy coming.”

The Math Bridge Instructors developed this model and curriculum based on several years of study on how best to teach adults Mathematics through TIAN (Teachers Investigating Adult Numeracy).   TIAN uses teacher inquiry and reflective learning to engage teachers in learning how to design and implement effective mathematics instructional approaches for algebra and data analysis. TIAN was piloted and field-tested with math teachers in six states whose adult students had math skills at the ABE, pre-GED, and GED levels.   Website:

We also know that math isn’t the only thing that students need to be successful. Math Bridge classes integrate skills for student success into the classroom, and bring in resources to help them along the way. Essential study skills are developed and practiced; tours of the campus with Student Life engage students with campus activities; and weekly visits to the class from a dedicated Student Services Advisor help students learn how to navigate the college system and maximize its resources. Finally, students also explore career pathways and meet with faculty and college career counselors to map out their next steps onto those pathways. Students complete the Math Bridge class with relationships already established with college faculty and staff, and feel comfortable asking for help.

 “This class has pushed me back into school. It has gotten me used to being busy and using my time wisely. I’m truly grateful.”

The first Spring Math Bridge class wrapped up last week, and the results already look good.  The first Spring Math Bridge classes of 2016 wrapped up last week, with over 80% of the students moving up on their placement  levels!  Of course, it’s not just test scores going up that leads to success, it’s about being engaged:

“It has helped me to re-learn all that I didn’t care about through high school. I couldn’t be more grateful.”

The next Math Bridge classes will start on March 28th  at Desert Vista, Northwest and East campuses, and are open to all PCC students. This fall, classes will also be available at Downtown and West Campuses. For more information about Math Bridge classes, contact Wendy Scheder Black at

“I’m anxious to get going with my college classes…This class has been a boost for me!”


Math Bridge Teachers – Mary Jo Chmielewski, Linda Kangas & Consuelo Carrillo


NOTE:  There is a professional development opportunity for Instructors who want to learn more about Bridge classes coming soon – stay tuned from your center for more information.


PCC Adult Education Celebrates National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

PCC’s Adult Basic Education for College and Career division invites you to celebrate National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 21-26, 2015

This month, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) will introduce, for the seventh year in a row, a House resolution designating the week of September 21st, 2015 as National Adult Education and Family Literacy (NAEFL) Week!

In addition, for the fifth year in a row, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will introduce a Senate resolution that also recognizes this important honorary week which celebrates the achievements of adult education in the United States.

This year’s NAEFL week will not only celebrate the critical role that adult education, English language services, and family literacy play in our country, but the opportunities that lie ahead in the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The law calls for a strengthening of our adult education programs so that learners can both improve their literacy and prepare for post-secondary education and employment.

PCC Adult Education serves approximately 5,000 students each year who, according to Laurie Kierstead-Joseph, Advanced Program Manager of Adult Education Services, “need to strengthen their basic literacy and math skills, improve their English, study for a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, and prepare for community college or vocational training.”

To recognize this national celebration and the achievements of adult literacy students, Pima will be sponsoring and participating in the following activities:

  • Congressman Raul Grijalva signed in support of the resolution tovoter reg 2015 designate the National Adult Education and Family Literacy week for the seventh year. Congressman Grijalva is a steadfast supporter of Adult Education.
  • On Sept 22nd, student leaders from PCC’s Adult Basic Education for College and Career division will do a voter registration drive at three adult learning centers as part of a college-wide celebration of National Voter Registration Day. At the 29th St. Coalition center, Selena Llamas from Expect More Arizona will open up the drive with inspiring facts that link education to voter turnout.
  • Adult education students and graduates will post brief reflections about their “keys to success” on The Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE)’s Facebook page. Student reflections will highlight the teachers, mentors or family members who encouraged or inspired them along their adult education journey.
  • Adult education staff will welcome over 125 high school equivalency students at the New Student Orientations on September 22 at 9:00 a.m. and September 24 at 4:00 p.m., at Community Campus. The importance of civic involvement and student leadership in adult education will be highlighted as student leaders give personal testimony and share their digital stories of success.
  • Instructors will implement reading-focused activities such as library tours, maximizing library resources, book reports and presentations.

Find more literacy facts at
For more information about PCC’s Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC) classes, call (520) 206-3987. Learn more about the services provided here. here.

What will WIOA funds be used for this year?

July 30, 2015

What will we do with the extra $600,000 WIOA award this year?

In a Nutshell:

Program Wide TABE 9/10 online:   The purpose is to transition into using TABE  9/10 online for all ABE/ASE students.

Award – about a $100,000

  1. Hire a Testing Manager R Chelsea James
  2. Backfill HSE testing with current examiners and staff
  3. A few highlights:
  • Buy online tests
  • Ensure equipment in testing locations will work
  • Train staff (centers and campuses)
  • Develop a new pre and posttest processes
  • Coordinate with the OneStop
  • Start pretesting online by March 2016
  • Full implementation for pre and post testing by July 1, 2016

Development & Implementation of Career Pathways for ABE/ASE:  The purpose of this initiative is to build capacity for more IBEST programs at PCC; we are looking at Business & Trades.

Award – about $230,000

  1. Hire IBEST Coordinator (C41) and a Student Services Technician (A13)
  2. A few highlights:
  • Introduce and train college and ABECC staff on what IBEST is
  • Explore options for new IBEST programs
  • Document process for recruitment, assessment, implementation and evaluation

Development & Implementation of Bridge Programming for ABE/ASE/ELAA: The purpose of this initiative is to build ABECC to help all levels and all learners transition into career pathways.

Award – about $230,000

  1. Hire Curriculum Coordinator (C42), PL Coordinator (C41), a teacher (C41) and Coaching expertise
  2. A few highlights:
  • Developing CCR curriculum for ALL classes
  • Develop ABECC pathways
  • Lots of training to support teachers

My Year of Thankfulness


My Year of Thankfulness…

I’m celebrating my first year as Dean for Adult Education at PCC. It has gone so quickly; I may have entirely forgotten about it had it not been for several prompts from my family, friends, colleagues, and Linkedin!

I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to lead an already quality program that truly serves our community.

I’m grateful that I work with people who I truly respect, value and who I enjoy being around. I’m continuously challenged by them with great ideas, innovative thinking, and well placed criticism of the status quo.

I’m grateful that I had one year off of fighting to keep the program funded. Instead, I had a year to refresh, rebuild, and reenergize.  While I’m not happy that education in Arizona may once again be in jeopardy, I’ve learned so much  over the years. I know there is always hope.   And even more than just hope, there are effective strategies that can help raise the awareness needed to keep adult education funding safe.

But this post is about being thankful. Here are just a few highlights from my first year:

  • We continue to serve students – approximately the same number of students despite new rules, new tests, and new funding challenges. Our enrollment is steady.
  • We received ~ $480,000 from the ADE for College & Career Readiness implementation. While this was only a one time allotment, it allowed us to invest in a Bridge to College & Career Advanced Program Coordinator and begin to build that department. We were also able to buy the needed texts, materials, and PD resources to support necessary CCR curricular changes.
  • We hired three full time Instructors – the first time in seven years! We are now at 40% full time and 60% part time.   We will never be in a position to eliminate all part timers, but this ratio is actually pretty good in comparison to both state and national percentages.
  • We are developing more and more into College and Career readiness program that can contextualize lessons better, offer more onramps to both employment and occupational programs and help our students achieve their goals. A High School Equivilency is no longer our end game.
  • We are looking at ways to improve student services and connect with the college in meaningful ways. As our President has routinely said, “a student is a student”.
  • We wrote and received a grant from the City of Tucson and received ~ $64,000 to help transition more of our students into college and to career pathways.
  • We wrote and received a grant from the ADE for an IBEST program and received ~$50,000 for the first year that makes us eligible for double that next year for a total of nearly $150,000.
  • We are the sub recipients of a Refugee Refocus grant to provide more citizenship classes for $100,000 over two year.
  • We are working on both internalizing positions and leveraging resources from the Developmental Education redesign to pay for both Bridge and IBEST classes and Instructors.
  • We have helped the college in response to the HLC probation by serving on committees and devoting our time and brainpower to some of the issues.
  • We continue to help our community by sharing what we do and listening to what their needs are.
  • We have countless partnerships, contracts, IGA’s and agreements and continue to serve on committees and task forces that help improve the quality of life in Tucson.
  • We have a Chancellor and Administration that values us – they really care about adult education students, staff and our program.   It’s personal….
  • We finished a strategic plan that will help us move into the future – stronger and smarter.

I’m grateful for my family who allows me to work in a career that gives me deep fulfilment;

I’m grateful for colleagues that I can laugh and cry with;

I’m grateful for thoughful, professional, compassionate and super smart teachers – our teachers are awesome – not afraid to try new things – not afraid to change.

I’m grateful for the relationships I’ve built with students – who continue to teach me and inspire me;

I’m grateful to the college leadership for the support that they have provided and will continue to provide for adult education in our community;

And I’m so very grateful that I was able to help or participate in some small way or just watch the amazing things that happen – things that PCAE staff make happen every day.

Have a restful, safe and peaceful Thanksgiving Holiday!