Literacy Hero Award 2016 Winner –
BRETT ASHMUN, recipient of the 2016 Literacy Hero Award
Each and every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things to promote literacy in our communities. With these awards, we celebrate the selfless acts of three regional heroes who champion the cause of literacy in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Brett Ashmun is a 34-year-old educator who makes a real difference in the lives of those around him. As a faculty member at Stanislaus State and a consultant for the Great Valley Writing Project, he motivates and inspires learning by building genuine connections with human beings.
Brett cares deeply about others. In 2006, he volunteered with AmeriCorps NCCC and spent ten months providing relief to flood victims and tutoring in after school programs. His experiences in AmeriCorps had a major impact on his life, and it shaped the way he develops curriculum and the way he teaches in the classroom.
Instead of teaching memorization of facts and ideas, Ashmun focuses on improving the quality and the long-term impact of each learning experience. His lessons ask students to think and act through rousing real-life situations. Because positive relationships can dramatically increase motivation and learning, he pushes his students to form meaningful relationships with educators, with their peers, and with their community.
The students in Ashmun’s English composition course learn that writing is a community-based activity that can bridge differences in age, experiences, and perspectives. During the last school year, he took his students to a nearby nursing home to write poems about the residents, partnered them with fifth grade students to help them view their assignment through younger eyes, and introduced them to administrators at a homeless shelter to help them address serious issues with more awareness and sensitivity.
Many of his students volunteered to work beyond their writing assignments. Last year’s students organized a fund-raiser to support the “We Care” emergency shelter and support services for the homeless.
His teaching practices might seem radical, but most of his methods are based on educational philosophies and research that have been advocated by educational reformers for 150 years.
Ashmun believes that teaching students the importance of community, relationships, citizenship, and civility provides hope for a better future, and based on their responses, it seems that his students find hope as well.