Literacy Hero Award 2016 Winner – Veray Wickham
VERAY WICKHAM, 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.
Veray Wickham was born in Ohio, but like so many families after WWII, she moved to California in 1955, settling down in San Joaquin County in 1960. She likes to quote JK Rowling: “Wherever I am, if I’ve got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy.”
A proud bookworm and history geek, Veray has been passionate about literacy in all its broad forms since childhood. Pouring over an encyclopedia and atlas with her dad as a child to anxiously awaiting the next Harry Potter book as an adult, she surrounds her life with the joy of reading every day.
As Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of San Joaquin from 1990-96, she trained volunteer coordinators and recruited volunteers for non-profit organizations throughout San Joaquin County, including a wide variety of programs designed to encourage literacy in people of all ages.
As Community Involvement Coordinator at San Joaquin County Office of Education, Veray managed a wide variety of grants that engaged educators in connecting their students, kindergarten through higher education, to their communities. She was the Regional Lead for a five county area providing resources for educators engaged in Service Learning, a teaching strategy that uses service projects that directly connect with classroom curriculum goals. Many service activities centered on improving reading levels in students. Older students reading with younger ones not only helped the tutee, but dramatically increased the reading level of the tutors.
The joy for Veray was being able to connect her love of reading to her passion for history. Her assignment as Regional History/Social Studies Lead and the Congressional District Coordinator for the Center for Civic Education provided her a view of the power of challenging students to a higher level of historic literacy. Not only did these students know what The Federalist Papers are but could quote and argue them! Obviously they and their teachers would appreciate Harper Lee’s quote “The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one that makes you think.”
Writing, being the flip-side of reading on the literacy coin, requires the ability to spell! Veray has been the San Joaquin County Spelling Bee Spell Master for 15+ years. It has been an adventure to learn tricky pronunciations, keep saying the word exactly the same numerous times in a row, and smiling kindly at the kids on shaky legs when first up to the podium.
Recently retired from the San Joaquin County Office of Education, Veray is now devoting her energies to being a docent at the San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum and engaging in and supporting Stockton Institute for Continued Learning (SICL) at Delta College. And, of course, spending many hours reading!