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Hungary RPCV Pam Garramone works to expand Adult School Program
Hungary RPCV Pam Garramone works to expand Adult School Program
By Patricia Henley Assistant News Editor
Caption: THE SONOMA VALLEY ADULT SCHOOL program has grown in the last few years, and its new principal, Pam Garramone, plans to work with the staff to continue that expansion.
Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune
8.17.04 - The need for quality educational programs usually brings to mind young schoolchildren, gangly high-schoolers and college students of all ages.
But it can also mean giving adults who were deprived of a childhood education a chance to pick up basic literacy skills, assisting others in passing tests equivalent to earning a high school diploma, helping immigrants learn English, coaching those who want to become citizens and working with adults with disabilities to help them improve the quality of their lives.
And it can mean offering classes in everything from computer training to cooking, health and personal growth to the intricacies of personal finance, the wonders of beginning astronomy and geology to the beauty of the arts in all its forms and a wide range of other topics for people who want to expand their knowledge, increase their job skills or simply entertain themselves.
"(Adult education) is very creative. Students for the most part are incredibly motivated," said Pam Garramone, who started work July 1 as principal of the Sonoma Valley Adult School.
She replaced Dee Dee Shannon, who after two years as adult school principal left to work with younger students in Novato. In an office tucked away at the back of the Sonoma Valley High School campus, Garramone is picking up the reins of a small but growing program with a dedicated team of staff members and faculty.
Last year the Sonoma Valley Adult School served some 2,000 enrollees in classes led by more than 50 teachers. A total of 129 people worked on their high school education, with 17 obtaining diplomas and eight passing the tests to earn the equivalent general education degree.
More than 550 studied English as a second language; 10 worked on mastering the extensive knowledge needed to pass citizenship requirements; and more than 1,200 enriched their lives in a wide range of community education programs.
Garramone plans to work with the adult school staff to continue and expand those programs while also adding basic adult literacy skills such as reading and simple math, as well as job-based English training.
Born in New Jersey, Garramone moved to Bakersfield with her family and then headed to Northern California for her college education. She earned a bachelor's degree in liberal studies from Sonoma State University in 1992, then entered the Peace Corps for a two-year term, teaching high school English as a foreign language in Hungary.
"It was very exciting," she said of her time in the Peace Corps.
While she was overseas, her family moved to the Napa Valley, so when she came home, Garramone got a job as an English as a second language teacher with the Napa Valley Adult School. She has worked there for the last 10 years, as both a workplace and a regular ESL teacher, as the citizenship department chairwoman, the coordinator of the English language civics classes and the supervisor of vocational education.
She moved to the Sonoma Valley about nine years ago and married Christopher Garramone - they will celebrate their third anniversary in October. She earned her administrative credential at SSU in 2002 and is working on earning her master's degree there as well.
Garramone jumped at the chance to bring her Napa Valley and other experiences to the Sonoma Valley Adult School program.
"I live here in Sonoma and I love this town," she said. "I've always been interested in (the Sonoma Valley Adult School). It's been small but it's been growing for the last few years."
Paulette Ross has taught ESL through the local adult school for about seven years and has worked with Garramone at the Napa Valley Adult School for more than three years. Sonoma was lucky to get Garramone as adult school principal, Ross said.
"She's very dynamic and energetic, but more importantly, she comes from her heart. ... I think she's excellent as more than just a boss, because she inspires you by what she has done."
Garramone is excited about adding workplace-based ESL classes to the adult school lineup. Longtime ESL teacher Loretta Carr has received a $2,000 grant from the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation to gather information on the needs of local employers.
"I know that vocational ESL is really the way to go with the adult population," Carr said. "They're not a captive audience like the children. You don't have them Monday to Friday for years. You have this small window of opportunity to give them the skills they need. ... If they can have the language skills to get a job, get a better job, advance in their job - that's the way to go."
She has sent out about 200 surveys to local employers, and is already starting to receive responses. Once she has that information, she will talk with ESL students about their needs and dreams, and then compile a report about what is being done and what should be done locally.
She hopes to set up classes at work sites. The curriculum could be customized to the English vocabulary needed at a particular restaurant, hotel or office, using their menu, purchase-order forms, work orders and other job-related materials.
Garramone is eager to see the vocational ESL classes put into place. Eventually she'd like to add basic adult literacy courses. However, she's also highly supportive of the adult school's other programs, including the wide range of community enrichment courses. Sonoma Valley has a diverse and unique set of these classes, Garramone said.
"This is such a creative community as it is. Anyone out there who has anything they can share with others, we're a good platform for it."
More than 25,000 copies of the adult school's fall schedule were mailed to local residents last week, and copies can be picked up in the office in Room L-5 on the SVHS campus, 20000 Broadway. An open house highlighting adult school programs and accepting class registration will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21.
During summer the adult school office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday; during the school year it will be open 1 to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday.
For more information, call 933-4033.
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.