Congratulations to the 2015 Award Recipients that were celebrated at our Fall Conference!

Program Advocate:

Thomas Dean, Houghton Lake, Board Secretary

Award-Heidi, Thomas Dean & MelisaIt is my pleasure to write a letter in support of Thomas Dean being honored with the 2015 Program Advocate Award from the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE). Tom has been a board member for Houghton Lake Community Schools since August 2006.  He has worked in the field of education for 30+ years.  Tom plays an active role on the school board and in 2014 earned the credential of a Level 4-Master board member from MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards). We are very fortunate to have such an amazing individual of this caliber selflessly serve on our board for such an extended period of time.

Tom cares deeply about the quality of education for ALL students in our district, including those that are considered at-risk. He advocates fairly and passionately for our students, staff, and program. Tom is an excellent listener and takes the time necessary to thoroughly understand an issue before making a decision or recommendation. Tom makes us all feel heard and does his best to ensure that, no matter what, the students always come first.

He consistently attends our high school graduation, banquets, and other school events throughout the year.  His presence at these events is very important because our students are not often enough shown unwavering support.  Tom spends a lot of his time at these events talking with and getting to know our students on a personal and academic level. He wants to see these students succeed and cares a great deal about their futures. The students are very receptive to Mr. Dean’s warm and caring nature.

In conclusion, we encourage MACAE to strongly consider Mr. Dean as the 2015 Program Advocate of the Year. Thank you for your consideration.

Support Staff Person

gigiGigi Saunders, Okemos Schools A+ English Language, Administrative Assistant

Gigi Saunders has worked with Adult Education for over 15 years.  During that time she has efficiently and effectively run the school.  Her demeanor with the students is wonderful.  Students and staff admire her for her kindness and knowledge.  She has created forms, improved forms, streamlined and created timelines so that each and every week, semester, year or event we do is seamless.  Gigi creates flyers, posters and is a perfect editor.  She handles payroll, purchasing, field trips, and budgeting.  Each event whether it is a Halloween party, Thanksgiving pot luck, International Fair or our Certificate Day, she handles it with ease and grace.  On top of this, she is the expert in Powerschool and MAERS!  She is always available and has helped colleagues throughout the tri-county area with help in MAERS.  With her diligence, the school has always had over 90% post-test rate and has exceeded and met performance levels.  Gigi also helps tremendously with the ESLPAC committee in organizing and supporting the conference.  She has helped with SCECHs, ordering food, meeting set up, budgeting, purchasing and stuffing folders!  While she sits in the back and doesn’t acknowledge all that she does, WE ALL know that she is the support and backbone of our program.

Unfortunately Gigi will be retiring this year.  It is scary to see her go!

-Karyn Goven, Director


Outstanding Educator

Stephanie & Matt KisosondiMatt Kisosondi, Orchard View Community Schools, Adult Education Instructor

Matt has been involved with Adult Education since 2004.  He currently teaches GED Preparation at the Orchard View AE main campus.  In addition, he travels to two other sites, one for the EXIT program for newly released prisoners and the other, the KPEP program for people who are on parole.  Matt excels at educating non-traditional populations, especially in the area of corrections.  He has become the preferred educator of choice for many programs dealing with ex-offenders.  Matt has the wisdom to recognize that ex-offenders are in desperate need of a conduit to lead them away from their former lifestyle and has determined that to be education. Matt also has the heart to focus on the individuals potential and future when many can only seem to focus on their past. Matt also has the insight to realize the future of KPEP and EXIT “participants” will have a great impact on the community, and has decided to work toward increasing the probability that the impact is as positive as great. Matt’s work and passion for the education of the ex-offender is a belief in action; people who are willing to work for it deserve a second chance and education is an essential first step.  But that doesn’t limit his focus to Adult Education.  He has a talent to reach all students across all abilities and walks of life.  Matt is truly dedicated to the field of Adult Education.  He works tirelessly to improve the education, therefore the lives, of his students and his community around him.

Trail Blazer Award

Tom Moore & Joel-AwardsJoel Hoppa, White Lake Area Community Education, Director of Adult and Alternative Education, Renowned author Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his article ‘The Talent Myth”,

“If everyone hos to think outside the box, maybe it is the box that needs fixing. 1/

Joel Hoppa is fixing the box.

For 10 years Joel Hoppa has quietly and methodically developed an alternative education
program that is second to none in innovation and creativity. There is not much that has not
been thought of in public education and it is hard to find something that could be considered new and innovative. Perhaps a better question to ask is, how are we meeting the needs of kids today and how are we serving those kids who have not found success in a “traditional” school setting? How do we minimize the gaps in education so all of our kids have an opportunity to succeed?

Joel Hoppa serves as the Principal of the Duck Creek Learning Center. Duck Creek is a 9-12
alternative high school building that serves close to 200 students across 7 districts in northern Muskegon and Oceana Counties. While offering the four core subject areas of Math, Science, Social Studies and English language Arts, Duck Creek also provides opportunities in Outdoor Education, PE, and Art and students have the opportunity to participate in field trips each week of the school year.

Students at Duck Creek come from a variety of back grounds and settings, but in general, all have struggled to find success in their home district. Each and every day many of our kids have to deal with the tough stuff life has thrown at them and the only way to keep them in school is to get a little bit, or a lot, creative.

Just a handful of the things that Joel has If Trail Blazed” in recent years;

Question: How do we get our kids to school when there is no available public transportation?

Answer: Let’s scrimp and save and buy ourselves a couple of used buses and figure out routes that can transport kids across 7 school districts. Check ../

Question: Why is it that our kids come to school hungry every-day?

Answer: I don’t know, but let’s just worry about feeding every kid breakfast and lunch every- day regardless of whether they qualify or not! Check ../

Question: Our kids come to school in dirty clothes and unable to shower because they have no funning water, why is that?

Answer: We cannot change where they live but we can build a laundry and shower facility in our building so kids can wash their clothes and take a shower. Why not invite their families in to also wash their clothes. Let’s write some grants and get it done Check ./

Question: How can an 18 year old come to us with so few credits?

Answer: Let’s not judge the past but look to the future and put together a meaningful learning plan for each individual kid. Maybe they need to focus on one 2 hour learning block per day and maybe they need to work on one subject at a time. Check ./

So … is it working? Last year Duck Creek graduated 34 students. A 100 increase over the previous year. Average daily attendance has increased by roughly 20 over the past two years. A student will want to succeed if they feel respected and in an environment that they can trust and be trusted. Joel is creating that environment and building that trust and respect one student at a time. Perhaps a few more of us can learn from that.

Award-Sally Unrath & JoeySally Unrath, West Bloomfield School District, Enrichment Supervisor

Sally Unrath, Enrichment and Recreation Supervisor for West Bloomfield Community Education Department has blazed a trail in our community for over 22 years.  In her position, Sally is responsible for the planning, implementing and supervising of programs from Pre-K through adults, year-round.  Her creativity, keen insight and abundant talents keep us on the “cutting edge”.

Most recently, Sally has initiated and implemented an elementary and middle school robotics program that is generating much excitement and interest at all levels.  This program, in particular, supports our district-wide STEAM Pathways initiative.  Last year, Sally introduced an elementary strings program. Now, in its second year, it is growing by leaps and bounds.

The summer months are a time when Sally’s talents really shine.  Over the years, she has designed and developed a series of day camps that stretch from preschool students to eighth graders and run the entire summer.  She fills these camps with creative and fun activities, always with an academic component, that kids and their parents love.  She has forged a strong partnership with the West Bloomfield Public Library where library personnel set up a mini-library in camp, conduct weekly reading activities and enroll all attendees in their summer reading program where they track students’ reading hours.

In addition, Sally has written a grant for our summer day camp program and been awarded a significant amount of funding through the PNC Foundation for the past two summers. These funds have allowed us to greatly enhance our program offerings, fund field trips and provide scholarships to children who cannot afford to attend day camp.  She has also established strong partnerships with many community and business organizations including West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation, Wholefoods West Bloomfield and Oakland County Parks Commission.

A few years ago, Sally revamped our aquatics program, hiring retired West Bloomfield Varsity Swim Coach and Michigan High School Coaches Sports Hall of Fame member Bob Crosby to run the program.  We now have a youth competitive swim team, all levels of swim classes, diving, water polo, lifeguard training and dozens of participants.

In spite of the demands of her position, she deems it important enough to actually teach several youth classes each year, namely Holiday Crafts and Cooking, Ballet and Tap, Jazz and Hip Hop as well as some summer camps.

Lots of people offer all kinds of camps, classes and activities, but Sally Unrath does it with a flair and an effectiveness that few can match.  She is most deserving of recognition through MACAE.  These are some of the highly successful programs and community partnerships Sally has established:

Elementary and Middle School Robotics; Elementary Strings; AP Review; Summer Scholars Academic Readiness; Summer Math & Reading Enrichment; Imagination Station; Bridge 6; Summer Sun & Fun, Camp Superstar and Get REAL Camp; Pretty in Pink Princess Camp; Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!; Boys Will Be Boys!


President’s Award

peterPeter Ruark, Michigan League for Public Policy

Serves as Senior Policy Analyst at the League. Peter’s areas of policy focus include skill-building for low-income adults, wage mobility, public assistance, and family self-sufficiency and tax credits for working families. He produces Making Ends Meet in Michigan, the annual Money Back in Michigan packet, and the annual Labor Day Report. Prior to joining the League in 2001, he directed an educational after-school program for at-risk children in Grand Rapids, taught English at the university and primary school level in the People’s Republic of China. Peter has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Calvin College and a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Policy, Planning and Administration from Western Michigan University.

Peter Ruark is one of the best kept secrets in Lansing. We were not only fortunate, but amazed at how much attention his paper on adult education received and continues to receive.

The President’s Award does not do justice to the gratitude we at MACAE have for Peter and the Michigan League for Public Policy for bringing a heightened awareness to the importance of adult education and the needs of the adult learner.

It is with heart felt sincerity that the entire MACAE family thanks Peter for his support in our vision to bring more resources to adult education programming.


Lifetime Achievement 

billBill Sutter, Consolidated Community Schools, Retired Director

Bill Sutter started his career at CCSS in 1980 with a temporary position as an adult education analyst as a special projects.  This role eventually expanded and in 1996 Bill became the director of CCSS.  During his time with CCSS he developed our adult education program, and added other programs such as GSRP preschools and our involvement with Michigan Works! EUP as a contractor providing Adult, Dislocated Worker, Youth and Employment Services.  In a way Bill became the “rock upon which CCSS was created” having taken what was a community enrichment program and turned it into what it is today.  Bill retired (sort of) this past July, but still remains involved with helping CCSS during the transition in leadership.



2014 Award Recipients