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Tonya Crum: Meet one of the people behind the educational materials you love

Tonya Crum
"Everything we do starting with adult education and going through college courses and professional development-all of those things are a continuum, a journey for students to get to the position they want to achieve in life. We are all serving students who are moving along that continuum and the teachers who are trying to guide them."

Biography
Early in the new millennium, Tonya Crum answered a want ad that would change her life and the lives of many others. It was an ad for a director of workforce development and training for Kentucky Educational Television (KET), originator of award-winning multi-media materials designed specifically for adults and used throughout the nation.

Back in 1996 when her professional story begins, however, Crum was an intern with Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. She spent her days designing a survey to measure the effectiveness of group leaders at one of the leading automotive facilities in the nation, providing the group leaders with analytical summary data. She also co-developed a listening course for new hires to the facility and presented it as a train-the-trainer course.

It was a tremendous opportunity for a young professional who had recently graduated with a master's degree in instructional systems design from the University of Kentucky after receiving a bachelor's degree in human services communication from Eastern Kentucky University.

That internship opened up a full-time job as manager of training for StudioPLUS Hotels, Inc. Crum was now responsible for setting up management training on a national level for all the property managers. She developed training modules on leadership, problem solving, team building, and group decision making for the company's introduction to management course. She also coordinated off-site training events and attended team challenge courses to determine the most efficient use of training dollars for teaching problem solving and teambuilding.

Crum had always envisioned herself with a job in corporate training, and this was an incredible introduction to that world. Crum discovered that she really liked working with adults. Furthermore, she particularly enjoyed helping employees acquire the skills they needed to advance.

Soon, Crum found herself back at Toyota, this time as a professional contractor. She developed a post-promotion training course for team leaders and also operated the company's tuition reimbursement program, getting a first-row view of the difference education could make in an adult's life.

"The more I learned about adult education, the more I liked it," Crum recalls.

That desire pulled her into another position working even closer with adult education students. The Kentucky Department of Adult Education needed a training and development coordinator. Answering this ad would lead Crum to decide that adult education was her calling, changing her future and subsequently changing the futures of the many adults she would help in the coming years.

As coordinator, Crum delivered presentations about workplace training to community organizations, economic development groups, and businesses. She conducted needs assessments for business and industry to ensure workforce development needs were appropriately met and developed marketing materials explaining the customized training services that the Department for Adult Education could provide.

Then a position opened up that would move her even closer to the adults she desired to help. It was September of 2003, and Crum was the new director of workforce development and training for Kentucky Educational Television (KET), the position she still holds today.

Crum is one of the forces behind many of the adult education materials used throughout the nation, including GED Connection, Workplace Essential Skills and Project CONNECT.

"One piece of adult education at KET happens through our study at home program where we enroll 400 students a year for these courses using GED Connection, Pre-GED Connection, and KET's Fast Track series," Crum says. "We also value our partnerships with Kentucky's adult learning centers where we connect adults throughout the state so they can further study to earn their GED or get skills that they need to succeed in the workplace.

"We not only help students that way, but we also develop the multi-media curriculum they use. It is exciting to be at a place where they developed multi-media curriculum that includes everything students need right at their fingertips."

What Crum likes best is the focus.

"The majority of our time is spent focusing on student and teacher needs," she says. "When teachers discover our materials they often tell me they didn't know we had already done the work for them. What we did at KET is pull together the best resources so teachers can spend the majority of their time focusing on student needs."

Crum also spends a lot of time training teachers on how to most effectively use KET's materials.

"I train teachers in Kentucky and throughout the nation on how to use our materials, particularly the video, to meet the students' learning objectives. It is important for them to know that it takes time to master the art of using video in the classroom but once they do it opens up a whole new world of learning because students learn in so many different ways. Video is really effective modality and KET is a master in that arena."

"The more I learned about adult education, the more I liked it," Crum recalls.

Take Workplace Essential Skills (WES), for example.

"Teachers don't have the freedom to bring in employers from many different occupations so students can hear from them," Crum notes, "but they can do that through the power of video."

But workforce development is not just GED, pre-GED or even WES, as important as they are.

Crum also oversees KET College Courses, which are broadcast over the station and videostreamed over the Internet. She works with the post secondary manager and a consortium of educational institutions, including 24 colleges and universities, to offer students an alternative way to learn. The courses attract a diverse group of students, some needing courses they can't get easily at their school, others needing some flexibility so they can effectively mix school and work.

She also oversees training for licensed and certified child care providers-professional development that helps them help their young charges and give the children a good start in life. Again, the training comes through broadcast and video courses.

"Everything we do starting with adult education and going through college courses and professional development-all of those things are a continuum, a journey for students to get to the position they want to achieve in life," Crum says. "We are all serving students who are moving along that continuum and the teachers who are trying to guide them."

Views on Literacy
Educators are so much more than teachers," says Crum. "They are mentors, social workers, career counselors, and more. It takes a special person to be an adult education teacher."

In fact, Crum says relationships are what adult education is all about.

"Adult educators put their heart and souls into helping students succeed," she says. "They care about the whole person."

And Crum is also well aware of the power of words, knowing the old rhyme about sticks and stones breaking bones but words not hurting you.

"Words are powerful," she says. "If you are labeled as illiterate, it is a label that sticks. It is hard to get out from under that label. Sometimes you can be able to read and still not be literate in certain areas."

"For example, there is health literacy," Crum says. "You have to be able to read first, but then you also need to be able to interpret health information. It is an extremely important skill. It could mean the difference in taking the right amount of medicine."

"Literacy in general affects a person's self esteem. It affects the value they place on education and subsequently the value their children place on education."

Literacy is also one of the most important factors when it comes to economic development for a community, according to Crum.

"I have had people question me about why I care so much about early childhood education and literacy," she says. "It is because those kids are the future leaders of the community. If they aren't literate, the community isn't going to thrive and everyone is going to be affected."

Meet some other Forum guests.

Questions and Answer Forum
Visitors to the website are invited to e-mail literacy-related questions to Tonya Crum.


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