Anne Longston, then Principal of New Directions Adult Education Centre in Lac du Bonnet sent out a letter to other adult education centres wondering if anyone else was interested in networking, professional development, and possibly even forming an association of adult educators in Manitoba. Jeff Kerr, Manager of the Brandon Adult Learning Centre, responds to Longston’s letter, and shares the information with Anna Beauchamp, Associate Dean of the Collegiate at the University of Winnipeg.
Longston, Kerr and Beauchamp met in Winnipeg and decide to plan a larger forum in order to bring together a wider group.
May 13, 1996
“Brave New Beginnings: A Forum on High School Education for Adults” took place at The University of Winnipeg. Tim Sale, MLA for Charleswood gave the keynote address, and a panel from Manitoba Education and Training (ME&T) presented some of the work in-progress on a proposed new Mature Student policy. Approx. 25 people from a variety of adult learning programs attended. Participants wished they could meet more often. A small action committee was appointed from the forum to follow up with ME&T regarding the proposed new policy.
June 5, 1996
The Action Committee of High School Education for Adults met in Winnipeg. The committee consisted of Jeff Kerr, Anna Beauchamp, Pat Zwolak-Ross from Red River Community College, Valarie Anderson from Empower Adult Education Centre in Pine Falls, and Sandy Truthwaite from the Lifelong Learning Centre in Selkirk. The committee drafted a letter to ME&T requesting an active role in development of the Mature Student policy, and worked on developing a mailing list. Shortly thereafter, a small delegation met with Brian Hanson of ME&T to discuss the Mature Student policy.
February 17, 1998
“Forum on High School Education for Adults” met at The University of Winnipeg, and was attended by about 30 educators many of whom represent adult learning centres that came into existence over the last two years. The need for further networking and P.D. was confirmed, and there was a stronger impetus to form an association. An association steering committee was struck and given the additional mandate to renew contact with ME&T regarding the Mature Student policy. The steering committee consisted of Anna Beauchamp, Jeff Kerr, Jim York, Pat Zwolak-Ross, Jim Rastel from the Thompson Adult Learning Centre, Jocelyn Starr from Yellowquill College, and Dorothy Braun from Rhineland School Division.
March 3, 1998
The first steering committee meeting was held via conference call, a survey of potential members was planned, and work began on drafting a constitution.
March 25, 1998
A first draft of a constitution is reviewed and discussed, and the committee brainstormed names for the organization. The members survey was readied for mailing. Cheryl Campbell from Pembina Valley Regional Alternative Education Committee replaced Dorothy Braun.
April 29, 1998
On March 27, 1998 the steering committee sent out 128 surveys. Theyreceived 61 responses, approximately 50%! Fifty-eight respondents said that they would join an association for high school education for adults. The committee chose Michelle Grant’s suggested name for the organization, Adult Secondary Education Council (ASEC). The respondents felt that the focus of this group should be (1) networking of adult educators; (2) organizing of PD days for these educators; (3) writing and distributing of a newsletter; and (4) communicating with government groups.
Educators wanted to see a sharing of resource lists, announcements of upcoming conferences and other events, a sharing of classroom “how-to’s”, and a sharing of success stories. In addition, several asked for information about adult education, new adult centres, and a sharing of organizational structure and handling of various tasks at other centres. A wide assortment of needs/wishes were expressed for professional development activities. Curriculum development, needs assessments, life skills, classroom materials, competency based courses, adult education research and methodology, school-initiated courses, use of technology, “at risk” learners, motivational speakers, casual sharing, evaluation, successful models, new math curriculum, remedial English and math were among the requests. The additional comments were overwhelmingly positive:
“Much needed service”
“Thank you for your efforts!”
“It’s a great idea and I would like to be a part of it.”
“This represents a fast-growing need in our community.”
“I would like to see a strong group formed so that each of us does not have to re-invent the wheel in our own schools.”
May 12, 1998
Preliminary discussion about conference and newsletter plans took place by conference call. Anna Beauchamp was able to report that she had received confirmation that someone from Manitoba Education and Training would be contacting the committee members in 2-3 weeks. Ted Franson, principal of W.C. Miller Collegiate in Altona, took the place of Cheryl Campbell on the committee.
May 20, 1998
Carolyn Hole from the Planning and Policy department of Manitoba Education and Training contacted Anna Beauchamp to request a mailing list so she could ensure the consultation document on the Mature Student policy reached the right people. The Corporations Branch approved the organization’s proposed name.
June 1-2, 1998
The steering committee met in Winnipeg to plan a spring newsletter, and a fall conference, and to sign the application for incorporation.
Message from Anna Beauchamp June 1998
I’m not normally attracted to military imagery, but when the interim Board of Directors of the Adult Secondary Education Council met on June 1st to sign an application to incorporate, we shared the feeling that we were “planting a standard where a standard never flew.” At the time we joked that we felt like the fathers (and mothers!) of confederation. In all our collective years of experience working with adult students in secondary level schooling, none of us had ever found a support organization that addressed our specific needs and wishes. When we began to bring people together informally to talk about the issues of adult secondary education, it became clear that we were not alone in the desire for some sort of organized networking, professional development and lobbying body that would bring together the myriad adult learning centres and upgrading programs that are scattered across the province. It has been said that if you can’t find the book you want, you have to write it yourself. Not having been able to find the professional association we wanted, the members of the interim board of ASEC set out to build it ourselves. This newsletter marks not a beginning, but a next step in a process that has taken over two years. Our hope is that our incorporation papers will be approved in time for our October conference to mark the real beginning of ASEC as a recognized voice for adult secondary educators in the province of Manitoba.
March 12, 2010
ASEC Spring Conference
Presented by Anna Schmidt
On February 17th a car and a pickup truck collided on an icy highway near Swan River and the driver of the car was killed. The driver of that car was Jeff Kerr. Those of us who have been around since the early years of ASEC recognize instantly the loss that represents. Those who have come to ASEC in recent years, on the other hand, may secretly be wondering what this unfortunate accident has to do with today’s conference.
In fact, Jeff Kerr has everything to do with today’s conference. Without Jeff there would be no conference, because ASEC as we know it would not exist.
Jeff was actually a major player in the development of the whole idea of adult learning centres. It’s hard to tell you why Jeff is important to this gathering without telling some of the history of ALCs in Manitoba. Even though Manitoba has had some form of mature student diploma pathway for roughly 40 years, for many years there were limited options for adults who wished to return to school—mostly that meant going back to the same high school context that hadn’t really worked for them the first time around. Things began to change in the early ‘90s when the government of the day amended the school funding policy—enabling schools to count mature students in the enrolment figure used to calculate funding entitlement. At a variety of locations around the province, creative educators began to recognize that effective adult education need not look like “school,” and they began to use the new funding to fuel experiments with programming that catered specifically to the needs of mature students.
One such experiment took place in Brandon when Assiniboine Community College made the bold move of reconfiguring its “college prep” programming around the mature diploma and partnering with Brandon School Division to create the off-campus Brandon Adult Learning Centre. The task of shaping this new concept into what is now the Assiniboine Community College Adult Collegiate fell to the centre’s first Education Director, Jeff Kerr.
I first met Jeff in early 1996 when I was Associate Dean of the University of Winnipeg Collegiate. At a school counselors’ conference in Brandon, I signed up for a tour of the new Brandon Adult Learning Centre. Jeff was passionate about his fledgling program and positively evangelical about the need to offer mature student programming that was truly designed for mature students. This was a passion that I shared, and I think we were both felt we had found a kindred spirit– someone who shared our vision of the way the world out to be. Jeff showed me a letter he had received from Anne Longston, then principal of the New Directions Adult Education Centre in Lac du Bonnet. Anne’s letter was an open invitation to teachers who “might be interested in networking and developing professionally with other teachers that are involved in adult education.” Within weeks, Jeff and Anne and I met for coffee and brainstormed a plan to hold a small forum on Adult Education in Manitoba. On May 13, 1996, 30 people showed up for the forum we named “Brave New Beginnings”.
It was an exciting start, but come September Anne left the ALC for a principalship at a bigger school, and I went on maternity leave. Jeff was the one who kept the momentum going, so that by the time the second forum was held on February 17th, 1998 the informal network we had assembled had gelled to the extent that it was ready to task a working group with researching incorporation, developing a constitution, and planning an inaugural conference. (Just as an aside, when I was preparing this talk, it struck me as profoundly ironic that Jeff died on a date that has such significance in the history of the organization that evolved from his passion.)
When ASEC formally incorporated in August 1998, I was its first President and Jeff was Vice President. The following spring, when plans for the second annual conference were gearing up, I became extremely ill, and again Jeff’s leadership was crucial to keeping the momentum going in the young organization.
I’m going to jump ahead five years now to 2003—ASEC by now was solidly established as a credible leader in professional development and networking opportunities for adult educators. Jeff had retired from BALC and was working part time at Erickson Collegiate, enjoying being closer to home after years of commuting to Brandon from his home in Erickson. And I had assumed the role of Director of Adult Learning and Literacy with the department of Advanced Education. The Adult Learning Centres Act had been passed, and Manitoba’s ALC’s were fast evolving out of what Jeff fondly referred to as the “wild west” phase of ALC history.
When the time came to formally consult with the ALC community about regulations flowing from the ALC Act, we at Adult Learning and Literacy knew we needed to engage a facilitator who would be recognized by that community as being empathetic, credible, and impartial. Ideally it needed to be someone who had actually worked in an ALC, but who was no longer employed in the system so there could be no appearance of conflict of interest. When we looked at the criteria we had set for the facilitator, it was a no-brainer. Once again, Jeff agreed to step forward and exercise his leadership gifts to build a better adult learning system.
For those of us on the consultation team, one of the most memorable aspects of this project was that it took the form of a grand road trip—six civil servants and Jeff trekking as far as The Pas and back in a government six-seater fleet van and Jeff’s brand new Jetta. There was some serious competition for turns to keep Jeff company in the Jetta. This competition was motivated in part by the fact that it was winter in northern Manitoba and the Jetta had heated seats! For me however, the real attraction of riding shotgun with Jeff was the quality of the conversation I knew I could count on.
Because, like all good adult educators, Jeff was at his core an insatiable adult learner. A conversation with Jeff meant that you could count on being asked questions that made you think—that challenged you to question your own beliefs and assumptions—that left you feeling a little bit wiser, and at the same time a little bit hungrier for more wisdom. Jeff was a student of life and a seeker of truth. He had more integrity in every single word he spoke than most of us will muster in a lifetime. Among the many people who travel in and out of our lives, some touch us lightly, and others affect us deeply. Jeff affected me deeply, and I know there are others in this room who shared that sense of personal loss when we heard the awful news of Jeff’s accident.
I come from a large extended Polish family—my dad had 62 first cousins, most of whom he only saw at weddings and funerals. Coming here today to speak about Jeff felt a bit like going to one of those family funerals—sad, because I was coming to say goodbye to a old friend, and at the same time a sort of family reunion. I thank Glen for giving me the opportunity to honor Jeff by remembering him with you, and for the opportunity to reconnect with my ALC family in the process.