ACCEPTING 2018 NOMINATIONS
Great Valley Bookfest
LITERACY HERO AWARDS
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.
Great Valley Bookfest has attracted recognition and support from community leaders, businesses, and regional news media. We’d like to use our “Literacy Hero Awards” to share that spotlight with hard-working people who promoting literacy in year-round programs. The awards were created to meet two goals:
– to recognize people who go above and beyond to promote literacy programs in our region;
– to bring media attention to the wonderful programs they support.
Do you know a real-life Literacy Hero? Please submit a nomination via our online form – http://goo.gl/forms/ctpocizcSP
2017 Award Recipients:
2016 Award Recipients:
2015 Award Recipients:
2017 LITERACY HERO AWARD WINNERS
Carol Costa Minner, director of the Great Valley Writing Project for the past 16 years, is a dairyman’s daughter and lifelong Tracyite. She taught middle-school language arts for 33 years at Jefferson School in rural Tracy. She is a product of Tracy schools and California State University, Hayward (B.S. and teaching credential). And she is proud, she says, of the impact GVWP leaders and
advocates are having in dozens of Central California schools. At Jefferson, in addition to her classroom duties, Carol mentored novice teachers, coached sports and was faculty advisor for the student council, the yearbook and the California Junior Scholarship Federation. She facilitated development of a school-wide portfolio assessment and created a district writing policy. Off campus,
Carol was a reader for the California Assessment Program, California Learning Assessment System and the Golden State Writing Exam. She was named California League of Middle School’s “Teacher of the Year” for
Region 6 in 2001. Early in her teaching career, Carol discovered the Bay Area Writing Project
(BAWP) — a network of “teachers teaching teachers” — at UC Berkeley. She was accepted to BAWP’s Invitational Summer Institute and studied under UC Teacher Ed. Professor Jim Gray, BAWP’s founder and progenitor of the National Writing Project. Carol’s mentor and inspiration was Mary Hurdlow, a primary teacher, whose love of children’s literature, especially picture books, spurred Carol to try a variety of books as models for her eighth-grade students. She frequented
libraries and bookstores to find quality picture books to guide her “young writers” as they authored and illustrated their own ABC and wordless books for kindergartners through fourth graders. “Their books were very popular with younger students and inspired them to be ‘authors,’ too,” Carol says. During her years as a teacher consultant for BAWP (and subsequently the California and National Writing Projects), Carol facilitated professional development programs for teachers throughout Northern California, taught at
young writers camps and coordinated the Saturday Seminar program at UC Berkeley.
Farther afield, she led on-site professional development programs for bilingual teachers in Monterrey, Mexico, and San Jose, Costa Rica, and facilitated the drafting of a K-12 writing curriculum on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona.
She served on the James Moffett Memorial Award committee and the National Writing Project State and Regional Network Leadership Team. In 1996, Carol began working as a consultant with the Great Valley Writing Project
at Cal State Stanislaus. Five years later, Mary Ann Smith, executive director of the California Writing Project, selected her to lead GVWP.
More than 800 teachers and administrators and 400 students and their families participate directly in GVWP programs annually. Carol has supported teacher consultants to lead family writing nights, student writing camps and professional book studies at their school sites. GVWP offers conferences, Saturday Seminars and Invitational Leadership Institutes for teachers. GVWP partners with the Migrant Education Program to provide four-week summer writing academies. In
2005, Carol organized the English Learners Symposium at CSU Stanislaus for teachers and Mini-Corps students. In 2007, GVWP received the Golden Apple Award for outstanding service to San Joaquin County educators.
Carol has served on the board of Give Every Child A Chance in Tracy, was a project leader for the Jefferson 4-H Club and is a 35-year volunteer for the Children’s Home Society of California. She has been president of the
Tracy Sister City Association since 2012 and has chaperoned student delegations to Japan. She resides in Tracy with her husband, Larry. They have two children: Carly, an attorney in Honolulu, and Rob, a landscape
architect in Walnut Creek.
Maureen Minnehan Jones is a registered nurse, author, and speaker who lives in Oakdale, California. In 2012, she was invited to participate in a new festival designed to excite interest in reading and provide support for local authors. She immediately asked, “What can I do to help?”
Since that time, Maureen has worked hard to make the Great Valley Bookfest a huge success. From the outset, she invested many hours helping the nonprofit team find and enlist authors. In 2015, she became the chairperson of the Bookfest Authors’ Committee, bringing in increasingly well-known authors each year.
As the main contact for featured authors, Maureen responds to dozens of inquiries from interested writers. She helps to coordinate schedules and equipment needs for the various presentation stages, and she communicates information with each author, handling an endless flurry of questions and concerns during the weeks leading up to the Bookfest.
At the annual festival, Maureen and her husband Jerry arrive early to help set up tents, signs, and equipment. She fields questions from authors, double-checks preparations at each stage, and makes sure the event runs smoothly. At the end of the long day, she and her husband help to dismantle the festival.
Soon after the event is completed, Maureen helps to administer and interpret participant surveys, and before winter sets in, she starts helping to plan the following year’s Bookfest.
Bookfest founder Toni Raymus sings her praises. “Maureen Minnehan Jones provides stable, solid leadership for our authors’ committee, and she offers sensible, perceptive input to guide decisions. She has a positive, can-do attitude, tackling problems head-on. She has been a key factor in the Bookfest’s success.”
Lesley Fontanilla was born and raised in Stockton. College took her away for a few years, but Stockton was, and will always be, Lesley’s home.
Growing up, Lesley was an avid reader, which she attributes to her family. “My brothers and I developed a love of reading mostly from our mom, who has been a library card-carrying patron for the majority of her life!” says Lesley. “My dad, too, was a reader. He kept a set of Encyclopedia Britannica in our family room for himself, but he shared them with us. As we got older he bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias for us kids. I spent many happy afternoons exploring those books, just for the fun of it!”
Going to the Stockton Public Library was a weekly event for her family. “We participated in the library’s Summer Reading Program every year. When the Bookmobile was parked in our neighborhood, we were there!” she remembers. “I knew every nook and cranny of that library; it was one of my happy places! I would find an author that I liked at the library and I would read all of his/her work… I still read that way!” With these happy memories to look back upon, it is no surprise that Lesley became a teacher and an advocate for literacy.
Since 1990, Lesley has been an educator with Manteca Unified School District. Between stints as an elementary classroom teacher, she has served in various leadership roles. As a Staff Development Leader and Literacy Trainer, Lesley worked with a team of teachers to develop and create effective, research-based staff development for 4th-6th grade teachers throughout the district. As a Reading & Academic Coach at French Camp Elementary School, Lesley was part of a team that was charged with improving that school’s state testing scores, which, during 2 years of intensive and challenging work, the staff and students successfully achieved! Currently working as the Program Coordinator for French Camp School, Lesley works with administrators and teachers to provide guidance and support in classroom instruction; she analyzes assessment data to find information that can help promote growth; she provides teacher and student support in the area of English Language Development; and she coordinates and supports interventions to promote success for all students.
Lesley loves her work. “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism,” she quips, quoting educator Colleen Wilcox, adding, “As a teacher, you just can’t resist the ‘light bulb moments’ – those very special moments when your students make the connection, understand something for the first time, or swell with pride from an achievement.”
Lesley spends many evenings, weekends, and vacation periods working as an advocate for effective instructional practices for teachers. She has been a Professional Development Presenter for “Pathways to Literacy,” the nation’s oldest professional development conference for educators. From 1997-2000, Lesley served as director of the California Reading & Literature Project at CSU Stanislaus, leading a team that offered in-depth professional development to teachers throughout Stanislaus, Calaveras, and San Joaquin Counties. Lesley also works part-time as an adjunct faculty member in the department of Teacher Education at CSU Stanislaus.
Despite her busy schedule, Lesley finds time for volunteer work, working to support programs and opportunities for readers of all ages in her community. She started her volunteer work at the Stockton-San Joaquin Library as a volunteer tutor for the Adult Literacy Program, working one-on-one with adults who could not read. In 2008, Lesley joined the Board of Directors of the Library and Literacy Foundation for San Joaquin County, a non-profit organization tasked with overseeing and managing an endowment to support and enhance library services in the City of Stockton. From 2010-2014, Lesley served as President of the Board of Directors for the Foundation; doubling as chairperson of the Foundation’s annual fundraising event – The Trivia Bee. Although she left the Board of Directors in 2014, she remains active in the Foundation, continuing to serve as co-chair of the Trivia Bee, ensuring that the Foundation has the funds needed to promote literacy programs and events throughout San Joaquin County. In addition, Lesley is a driving force behind another annual literacy event; she plays a large part in acquiring the children’s books that the Foundation hands out to children who visit the Library and Literacy Foundation booth at Family Day in the Park. Over the years, the Foundation has handed out thousands of free books to children at this event.
When asked why she invests so much of her time to literacy programs, Lesley shares a favorite quote from Oscar Wilde: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines who you will be when you can’t help it.” She explains further: “The ability to read and write are the keys that open all the doors. And those doors are everywhere – school, work, community, life! That is why having a literate society is so important!”
At her school, in her hometown, and throughout the region, Lesley Fontanilla has spent her adult life working to bring literacy to the forefront. She truly believes that helping students to become readers and writers, helping teachers to become better teachers of literacy, and supporting community programs that advocate for a literate society are essential factors in creating a world that is hopeful, caring, and united.
2016 LITERACY HERO AWARD WINNERS
2015 LITERACY HERO AWARD WINNERS
RUTHANNE BASSETT, recipient of the 2015 Literacy Hero Award
Ruthanne Bassett’s life reflects her love of working with children, and with the public in general, in both classroom and library settings.
She started volunteering at the Manteca Library when she attended Manteca High in the 1960s.
Although she earned a college degree in agricultural studies, she decided to pursue a career path that allowed her to share her love of books and knowledge.
For two years, she taught fourth- and sixth-grade classes at Neil Hafley School in Manteca Unified School District. She also worked as a substitute teacher at various schools in the district.
She spent 15 years working as an assistant librarian for the Stockton-San Joaquin County Library System. The first three years were at the Cesar Chavez main library in Stockton; the last twelve years at the Manteca Public Library.
“I followed my heart, and I’m glad I did, because I’ve enjoyed it,” she said of being an assistant librarian. She liked the diversity of her workplace which had her working at the reference desk, helping with setting up programs, and leading Story Time for young children.
Ruthanne is also a committee chairperson and a key volunteer at the Great Valley Bookfest in Manteca. She organizes and manages the Children’s Theater at the annual event, and she shares a wealth of knowledge with other committee members. Her contributions have helped to make the regional Bookfest a huge success.
Although Bassett retired from the library in January, she continues to enjoy the best of her academic and professional worlds. She still works part-time hours at the library, volunteering her time to maintain popular library programs that she previously provided as a paid employee.
“This library is my home,” she says matter-of-factly, by way of an explanation.
Jennifer Torres is an author, community leader, and literacy advocate who has actively influenced the development of programs for education and youth in San Joaquin County. Originally from Southern California, Jennifer has lived in Stockton for the past 10 years with her husband, David, and daughters, Alice and Soledad.
She currently works at University of the Pacific, where she coordinates the Beyond Our Gates initiative, working alongside community partners to improve early literacy across our region. She serves as a board member in numerous community organizations, including: El Concilio Council for the Spanish Speaking (a Stockton-based organization that provides a range of social services to individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley); San Joaquin A+ (a nonprofit organization that supports and enhances education by promoting collaboration among education, nonprofit, and business organizations); and the YMCA of San Joaquin County (a nonprofit organization that provides developmental, enrichment, and recreational opportunities to children).
Before joining Pacific, Jennifer worked as a reporter for The Record newspaper, covering education, diversity, children and families. During her tenure, she launched, organized, and managed the High School Journalism Awards, the newspaper’s annual contest honoring the work of outstanding high school journalists.
She continues to lead workshops for journalism students on feature writing, source development, and other key topics.
She has been honored for education and youth reporting by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and she received the Action on Behalf of Children Award from the Family Resource and Referral Center in recognition for media coverage benefiting children in San Joaquin County.
Torres is the author of “Finding the Music,” a bilingual picture book, inspired in part by the San Joaquin County community and published this spring by Lee & Low Books. Her middle-grade novel, “Stef Soto, Taco Queen,” is due out from Little, Brown in winter 2016.
Harry Bakker, an author and retired educator, spent his life championing reading, writing, and full educational access for all citizens in his community.
Originally a junior high school teacher in the Modesto City Schools, Mr. Bakker became director of Instructional Materials Center (IMC) at the Stanislaus County Office of Education in 1974. He was promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in 1991, retired in 1999, and returned to work as Associate Superintendent of Educational Services for Modesto City Schools in 2000.
Mr. Bakker authored California’s Story, a fourth grade work text, published by Steck Vaughn. Additionally, he authored a Stanislaus County history unit used for many years by third grade students throughout Stanislaus County.
He served as Director of the California Instructional Video Clearinghouse from its inception in 1986 through 1991, assuming the responsibility for the evaluation of thousands of instructional videos. The Clearinghouse identified high-quality instructional videos to support California’s curriculum standards and arranged statewide duplication rights for selected titles.
Mr. Bakker was one of the authors of a half-million dollar innovative research and developmental cooperative project with Encyclopedia Britannica, a plan designed to develop a digitally interactive videodisc and CD-ROM programs for English Language Learners.
Additionally, he was a major writer of Project Riverbank, a five-year, $2,200,000 School-to-Work grant. During his tenure, Mr. Bakker’s grant-writing skills brought millions of dollars of resources to school districts in Stanislaus County.
Although he retired in 2003, Mr. Bakker continues to promote literacy as a volunteer and financial contributor.
Bakker still serves as Spelling Master for the Stanislaus County Spelling Championships, annual contests that offer enrichment and challenge for elementary and junior high students.
He continues to serve as an active board member at Learning Quest/Stanislaus Literacy Center, a nonprofit organization that provides adult literacy programs, GED preparation, prison education programs, and family literacy programs for parents who need to improve their English and want to be better able to read to their child and/or help their child with homework.
Harry and his wife, Donna Bakker, are ongoing supporters of nonprofit educational organizations, including Learning Quest programs, Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, and the American Heritage Scholarship Program.
Over the years, Bakker’s efforts have transformed public education in our region, and he continues to help individuals, families, and schools in their shared quest to create a more literate community.
2014 LITERACY HERO AWARDS
Great Valley Bookfest Awards Recipients
October 17, 2014
2014 Award Recipients:
Sally Hale is a literacy advocate who spent 28 years in public education as a classroom teacher, mentor teacher, curriculum consultant, and staff development leader. Since her retirement, Sally has filled many important roles in local schools and nonprofit programs:
• She supports classroom teachers by organizing professional development events and sharing instructional resources through Great Valley Writing Project at California State University Stanislaus.
• She voluntarily provides one-on-one coaching and after-school assistance to help teachers improve reading and writing instruction in their classrooms.
• She provides learning opportunities for young writers by filling important leadership roles at GVWP Writing & Technology Workshops (a series of summer writing programs for K-12 students).
• She helped create and enrich after-school literacy programs for students at Sequoia Elementary in Manteca, helping these “Tiger Writers” to publish an award-winning book.
• She contributes many hours to the Escalon Public Library; she also volunteers at the Escalon Historical Society, where she has arranged classroom presentations and field trips for local students.
• As a founding member of Great Valley Bookfest, Sally helped establish Bookfest collaborations with public libraries. She organizes many important Bookfest activities, including workshops for teachers, programs for aspiring writers, and recognition for student authors.
Sally’s countless hours of volunteer work have created unique learning opportunities for children, teachers, and adult citizens in south San Joaquin county. She exemplifies the spirit of a Literacy Hero, and we are proud to be able to honor her with this award.
For the past 18 years, Karen Williams has served as the executive director of LearningQuest—Stanislaus Literacy Center. Under Karen’s leadership, the program has grown from a budget of $68,000 with two part-time employees to a budget of over $1.8 million with 55 employees. The organization, which served just 50 adults per year in 1996, now serves over 1300 adults annually.
• In 1998, Stanislaus Literacy Center added their first Family Literacy Program and a Drop-In Learning Center.
• In 2001, the Literacy Center partnered with Stanislaus County Library to form “Reading Works.” The partnership has been so productive that Stanislaus County now receives the largest library literacy grant in the state.
• Over the years, programs have expanded to provide a variety of GED preparation courses and English classes for non-native speakers.
• This year, LearningQuest and the Stanislaus County Office of Education launched Destination Graduation, offering adults of any age the opportunity to attend classes with credentialed teachers to earn the credits needed for a high school diploma.
• For her achievements, Williams was honored with a MEDAL fellowship from California Literacy; she was also chosen as the 2005 Literacy Network’s recipient of the Jean and Clyde Dunlap Award. Karen’s dedicated efforts have helped to provide thousands of adults with new confidence and career opportunities, empowering them to redefine their lives – and the lives of their children – through literacy.
Gary Dei Rossi has spent 38 years as a highly respected and admired educator: first, in public schools, and later at San Joaquin County Office of Education.
• He continues to promote literacy through his work in “First 5” (the San Joaquin County Children & Families Commission), San Joaquin A+ (a partnership between business and education to improve literacy), Teachers College of San Joaquin, California State University Stanislaus, and University of the Pacific.
• He has also served on educational advisory committees for the Farm Bureau, Head Start, Stockton Civic, the Haggin Museum, and Great Valley Bookfest.
• He received Congressional attention for his work in “Operation Recognition,” a program that awarded high school diplomas to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and to Japanese internees.
• He has co‐authored two books that help educators teach students about the history of San Joaquin County.
• His wife, Katherine, served as an elementary teacher in public schools for over 30 years, and both of their children are teachers.
Over the years, Dr. Dei Rossi’s tireless efforts have transformed public education in our region, and he continues to help teachers, parents, students, and school administrators in their quest to create a more literate and better-informed community. We commend him for his many contributions, and we are pleased to be able to honor him as a Literary Hero.
For more information, contact Michele Davis ~ michele [@] greatvalleybookfest.org