Literacy Hero Awards – 2014 Winners

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Great Valley Bookfest Award Recipients
October 17, 2014


2014 Award Recipients:

• Sally Hale
• Karen Williams
• Gary Dei Rossi


Each and every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things to promote literacy in our communities. With these awards, we celebrate the selfless acts of three regional heroes who champion the cause of literacy in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.


Literacy Hero: Sally Hale


Sally Hale is a literacy advocate who spent 28 years in public education as a classroom teacher, mentor teacher, curriculum consultant, and staff development leader. Since her retirement, Sally has filled many important roles in local schools and nonprofit programs:

• She supports classroom teachers by organizing professional development events and sharing instructional resources through Great Valley Writing Project at California State University Stanislaus.

• She voluntarily provides one-on-one coaching and after-school assistance to help teachers improve reading and writing instruction in their classrooms.

• She provides learning opportunities for young writers by filling important leadership roles at GVWP Writing & Technology Workshops (a series of summer writing programs for K-12 students).

• She helped create and enrich after-school literacy programs for students at Sequoia Elementary in Manteca, helping these “Tiger Writers” to publish an award-winning book.

• She contributes many hours to the Escalon Public Library; she also volunteers at the Escalon Historical Society, where she has arranged classroom presentations and field trips for local students.

• As a founding member of Great Valley Bookfest, Sally helped establish Bookfest collaborations with public libraries. She organizes many important Bookfest activities, including workshops for teachers, programs for aspiring writers, and recognition for student authors.

Sally’s countless hours of volunteer work have created unique learning opportunities for children, teachers, and adult citizens in south San Joaquin county. She exemplifies the spirit of a Literacy Hero, and we are proud to be able to honor her with this award.


Literacy Hero: Karen Williams


For the past 18 years, Karen Williams has served as the executive director of LearningQuest—Stanislaus Literacy Center. Under Karen’s leadership, the program has grown from a budget of $68,000 with two part-time employees to a budget of over $1.8 million with 55 employees. The organization, which served just 50 adults per year in 1996, now serves over 1300 adults annually.

• In 1998, Stanislaus Literacy Center added their first Family Literacy Program and a Drop-In Learning Center.

• In 2001, the Literacy Center partnered with Stanislaus County Library to form “Reading Works.” The partnership has been so productive that Stanislaus County now receives the largest library literacy grant in the state.

• Over the years, programs have expanded to provide a variety of GED preparation courses and English classes for non-native speakers.

• This year, LearningQuest and the Stanislaus County Office of Education launched Destination Graduation, offering adults of any age the opportunity to attend classes with credentialed teachers to earn the credits needed for a high school diploma.

• For her achievements, Williams was honored with a MEDAL fellowship from California Literacy; she was also chosen as the 2005 Literacy Network’s recipient of the Jean and Clyde Dunlap Award. Karen’s dedicated efforts have helped to provide thousands of adults with new confidence and career opportunities, empowering them to redefine their lives – and the lives of their children – through literacy.



Literacy Hero: Dr. Gary Dei Rossi


Gary Dei Rossi has spent 38 years as a highly respected and admired educator: first, in public schools, and later at San Joaquin County Office of Education.

• He continues to promote literacy through his work in “First 5” (the San Joaquin County Children & Families Commission), San Joaquin A+ (a partnership between business and education to improve literacy), Teachers College of San Joaquin, California State University Stanislaus, and University of the Pacific.

• He has also served on educational advisory committees for the Farm Bureau, Head Start, Stockton Civic, the Haggin Museum, and Great Valley Bookfest.

• He received Congressional attention for his work in “Operation Recognition,” a program that awarded high school diplomas to veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and to Japanese internees.

• He has co‐authored two books that help educators teach students about the history of San Joaquin County.

• His wife, Katherine, served as an elementary teacher in public schools for over 30 years, and both of their children are teachers.

Over the years, Dr. Dei Rossi’s tireless efforts have transformed public education in our region, and he continues to help teachers, parents, students, and school administrators in their quest to create a more literate and better-informed community. We commend him for his many contributions, and we are pleased to be able to honor him as a Literary Hero.