REM Award Honorees (2016) — Janna Townsend (Literacy Volunteers)

Janna Townsend, president of Literacy Volunteers, has expanded our mission to include the Family Literacy Program, which works with parents to teach them to read with and to their children. Janna has worked tirelessly to improve and grow the program during her tenure.

Since becoming president in 2011, Janna has helped LVW increase the number of participants (both students and tutors) from 12 to over 50. It is not just an increase in volume, but she has elevated the whole program to serve a wide spectrum of students in a variety of different venues. She developed and implemented required tutor training sessions. Each training session is a three-day workshop focused on cultivating the skills and strategies necessary to create healthy, sustainable, and productive relationships between tutors and students.

As a lifelong learner herself, Janna recognizes the value of continual support beyond this initial training. In order to personalize the growth of each tutor, Janna provides continuous coaching for tutors in the form of optional support groups based on his/her specific issue or need.

As a lifelong educator, Janna knows firsthand the importance and value of fostering literacy regardless of her student’s age, history, or ability. Throughout her 40 year career, she has dedicated her life to developing programs that support the most challenged learners. This work began in the New York City Public Schools system as a teacher and special educator. Recognizing the limitations of the special education models at the time, Janna shifted her energies to building inclusive programs in districts within the city. She developed the Principals’ Institute which paired teams of experts with faculty and administration from schools looking to facilitate the transition to inclusive programs.

Even though Janna’s formal career in education is complete, she continues to value investing in the improvement of people’s lives within her community. She sees universal literacy as paramount in the forward progress of both individuals and society as a whole.

Janna encourages all board members to take ownership and then act upon individual strengths and expertise. Her leadership approach is to provide the group with an organized, thoughtful vision, while employing all members to become active participants. The work load as well as the creative development of the program is shared by the entire group of engaged board members. Janna’s strength lies in her commitment to build a cohesive, vibrant, and innovative group of board members. This gift can easily go underappreciated, but it has helped launch Literacy Volunteers of Waterville into its current model. The LVW program, coupled with Janna’s inspiration and leadership, is found in the successes of our students.

For more information about Literacy Volunteers – Waterville Area, visit its website.

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