MADISON — The Boone County Adult Learning Center has been named the West Virginia Program of the Year by the West Virginia Office of Adult Education.
The award was based on a formula used across the state that included percentage of non-compliant, months in session, percent of measures met serving most in need/less than a high school equivalency, percentage of national reporting system enrolled and educational functioning level completion.
Mountain State Educational Services Cooperative Regional Adult Education Coordinator Marsha Mullins covers a swathe of eight counties that also includes Clay, Kanawha, Logan, Cabell, Lincoln, Mingo and Wayne. Mullins spoke about the dedication of Boone County instructor Nicole Vint and how her program became a model for recognition.
“Nicole is one of our most dedicated and committed instructors,” Mullins said via telephone. “She works many hours in the evenings to develop curriculum for her students and in particular math curriculum.” Mullins, who spent 38 years teaching elementary school added, “She has a heart for adult students and their circumstances and she believes in second chances and strives to help them reach their goals and their dreams.”
Vint said she was surprised by the recognition because she has a thorough understanding of what goes into creating a successful program and she has a tremendous amount of respect for her colleagues across the state who face the same challenges that her classroom must overcome.
Grant-funded via both state and federal dollars, Vint’s classroom met or exceeded all criteria across the board. She found out about the recognition via telephone because of COVID-19 precautions.
“I was really taken back by it and it blew my mind, honestly,” she said. “It is a tremendous honor. I love what I do and I work really hard at it, but it is hard to put in perspective because I know about the great work put in through programs in other counties.”
Vint received the award after state adult education programs received professional development training on Sept. 3 because the annual conference was conducted virtually due to COVID-19.
Vint, a 1990 Sherman High graduate, received an associates degree from Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College before attending West Virginia State University, where she earned a bachelors degree in education K-8. She is currently enrolled at Marshall University graduate school studying adult continuing education and has just three classes left until completion of her masters.
Vint said her philosophy centers around flexibility as an instructor in reference to how an adult student learns.
“All students learn differently,” she said. “It is my responsibility to figure out what works for them. I think a lot of times they’ve fallen behind because they’ve hit a brick wall and no one figured out what can work for them and figure out how to get over whatever the roadblock may be. I work really hard to compliment their learning styles and find a way to reach them. I just don’t think you can be successful just offering one avenue.”
Beyond high school equivalency (formerly known as GED) preparation and testing, the center offers entrance testing for adult vocational and instructional preparation classes for those who aren’t ready. They offer employability skills with certifications to help them sell themselves to employers, college preparation and tutoring and they work hand-in-hand through partnerships with the West Virginia/Boone County Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Rehabilitation and local drug and family courts. Their services are offered free of charge, and Vint is always looking to add partnerships to her roster.
“I believe we are the best-kept secret in Boone County,” she said. “We constantly seek new partnerships and we value them. They are wonderful.”
Vint said she enjoys seeing her students reach and often exceed their goals.
“I really believe in second chances, and all people have a story and there are reasons for the path they’ve taken,” she said. “I want to be there and help my students be successful.”
Former student Gina Pell, 19, who lives in South Charleston today, knew she wanted to complete her high school equivalency after she dropped out of high school in Jacksonville, Florida, to help take care of her grandmother who was facing serious health problems and had no one to care for her.
“I didn’t have the easiest time growing up on the west side of Jacksonville,” she said. “It was rough and always something going on and I was living with my grandmother and I dropped out to stay home and help care for her.”
She tried balancing online schooling and caring for her grandmother and found it overwhelming as a teenager.
“It didn’t work out, and, quite frankly, it was just too much for me at that time,” she said. “I just focused on taking care of her.”
The family left Florida for West Virginia to be closer to family.
After her other grandmother in West Virginia found out that she hadn’t graduated high school and saw that her granddaughter wanted to achieve, they sat down together to figure out what her options were and she found herself in Vint’s Adult Education Learning Center in West Madison, next door to Madison Middle School.
“Nicole really turned my life around when it came to education,” she said. “I was one of those people you couldn’t teach math to and it was so hard to comprehend. When I got my high school equivalency, math was my highest score. She was so patient with me and never turned me down for a question. I don’t think I would have gotten it nearly as quick as I did without her.”
Pell is employed full-time today. She and her fiancé have a son together who was born on Aug. 31, and they are looking for their own house to raise their family.
“Nicole taught me so much, and not just about school,” she said. “She and (Instructional Aide/Data Manager) Sherry Buckner were really there for me and I’ll never forget what they did for me and my life.”
To learn more about the Boone County Adult learning Center, find it on Facebook, visit boonealc.weebly.com or call 304-369-4099.