When one thinks of a department made up entirely of adjunct faculty, one might imagine isolated ships passing in the night: each faculty member picking up their assigned class, teaching to their curricula, and getting on with their lives. Clock in; clock out. Move on. Strike that vision from your imagination because here at Waubonsee Community College, where our Adult Education department is made up entirely of adjunct faculty, that could not be a representation further from the truth. If the last 14 months have shown our department anything, it is that we are a strong, solid, and resourceful team.
For those unfamiliar, Adult Education is a grant-funded program that serves members of our community in need of English language acquisition or the training and tools necessary to earn their high school equivalencies. It is our goal and mission to help our students reach their academic and career goals. We consist of one house with two sides, a duplex if you will. On one side of the house, we have our English Language Acquisition (ELA) team. On the other, our High School Equivalency (HSE) team. The foundation that supports the entirety of our home is an underlying base of social justice that Adult Education brings to our college and community. Students come to us from all walks of life and experience. It is not unusual to find a sixty-year-old man chatting animatedly about rational numbers with a twenty-two-year-old. One of the great charms of our program is faculty and staff have the opportunity to build relationships with members of the community directly.
Covid-19 has allowed our program to shine, if I’m honest. Sure, there have been challenges and bumps along the way but boy, have we experienced significant growth and professional development in the last year. We have redesigned our curriculum - twice. We have implemented new hybrid and remote modalities for our students, and we have piloted and pioneered the use of flex classrooms and did so with our most timid learners: our math students.
Adult Education is a place where faculty become friends and students see success. I am proud to be a part of a team that continually adapts, pivots, and helps students earn their high school equivalency, and then move on to credit and career certification programs under the guidance of our transition advisors and youth outreach manager. Adult Ed works because the people in Adult Ed work. We care about our students and the survival and success of our program. We deliver incredible value to our community by advancing our students through the process and into the credit and certificate side of the college. I believe this work is social justice work because it serves those who need it most in our community. A student will not lack a book, a meal, or a kind word on the fourth floor of the Aurora Downtown Campus. Our students succeed because they are cared for and encouraged. Education comes easily once those basic needs are met. Anyone with a limited understanding of Maslow gets that. We have a dean and administrative team who genuinely values our work and students. Adult Ed works and it’s a wise investment for all.