Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adult education director elected to national board by Elizabeth Richards

Tom Nash, Director of Windham Raymond Adult Education, has been elected President-Elect to the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) board of directors, to start in July 2013.  This position represents a six-year commitment, two years each as president-elect, president and immediate past president.  The commission, which provides leadership, communication, professional development and advocacy for adult education and literacy practitioners, has close to 12,000 members.

Nash began his career as a fourth grade teacher, but quickly moved into the adult education field.  He earned a Masters of Science in Adult Education from the University of Southern Maine in 1992.  He has worked in four adult education programs in Maine, landing at RSU 14 nine years ago. Nash said that one thing he appreciates about RSU 14 is that he has been part of the administrative team right from the beginning. “I’ve really worked hard promoting a K to adult system, rather than just K-12,” he said.

Nash said he’s had tremendous support from both the Windham and Raymond communities.  He has also established a positive relationship with the business community, including working with the chamber of commerce and the Rotary club.  

Nash has been involved in the Maine Adult Education Association for many years, including being past conference chair and past president.  “I feel, for both myself and my staff, it’s important to be involved beyond the four walls of our learning center.  I think we have a lot to share with others in terms of the quality of work we do, the types of programming and the creativity we bring to adult education.”  

After attending COABE conferences for years, Nash ran for the position of Region One (New England and New York) Representative as a write in candidate, and won.  In that position, he found himself sometimes stepping up to ask the tough questions.  “I’m not afraid to ask anyone, regardless of who they are on the board, to provide more facts, provide more information, to challenge their thinking so it moves us forward,” he said.  

The president-elect position will be all about learning the ropes, supporting the president, and serving on the executive committee which sets the tone and agenda for the board.  Nash said he wants to get input from everyone – not just the board, but members as well.  “I think that’s an asset I bring to the position is that I’m very inclusive in my decision making.”

Nash expects to be challenged over the next few years, particularly with federal funding issues, including sequestration and possible immigration reform.  One challenge will be to ensure that people understand what the needs of adult learners around the country are, and make sure appropriate services can be provided.  He believes that his current involvement with COABE as well as his presidency will help the local program and Maine.  “I can bring a very different small program, rural perspective and a small state perspective to that discussion.”

Nash was recognized last year with the Maine Adult Education Gerald LeVasseur Award, given to a citizen of Maine who has performed outstanding work in the field of Adult and Community Education.  While it’s nice to be recognized, he said, that isn’t why he does the job.  “I love the work, I love the students,” he said.  “It’s just wonderful seeing people come back because they want to be there.”  

He ran for COABE president because he thinks he can make a difference in how the organization is run and perceived.  “I have a genuine interest in people and I have an ability to engage people in meaningful conversation, and they know that I’m interested,” he said. 

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