Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program Celebrates its 10th Anniversary

An Interview with Deborah Lowe Duty, Regional Program Manager 

Since its inception 10 years ago, the Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program has served over 10,000 adult learners in rural southwest Virginia. With its regional office in Abingdon, the program is a service of the public school system and meets the different needs of this region with program offerings that exemplify the many facets of adult education today. In addition to adult basic education and basic job skills classes, the program includes ESL, family literacy, and on-site programs for customers of the Departments of Social Services, Corrections, Housing, and other agencies. Customized on-site workplace basic skills classes for employees and associates are geared to the mission of each business and the individual learning needs of the participants. 

Deborah Lowe Duty has been Program Manager for the project from its start. Comparing her past employment experience in manufacturing and healthcare with her work in adult education, she explained that “MBWA” (management by walking around) has always worked for her. “When the alarm went off, I was up and on the hospital or plant floors, doughnuts in hand, to visit with employees and express interest in them and in their jobs, their concerns, and their successes.” Now, as Regional Program Manager with seven very rural school divisions, Deborah finds it somewhat impossible to “manage by walking around.” Therefore, an essential component of her program is the regional lead teacher. The teachers in those positions are caring, extremely perceptive, sensitive, and skilled. They are also loyal to the requirements of the regional program, to the Program Manager’s expectations, to the policies of their respective school divisions, to the concerns and successes of the teachers in their area, and, most specifically, to teacher and student needs. Little turnover in that position (one in ten years) is a tribute to the effectiveness of this group. 

The keys to Mount Rogers’ success are building local and regional support, strong communication, and a participatory approach to managing inevitable change. A qualified and committed team of instructors and support staff back the program. Deborah believes in the value of staff development at all levels and in research-based, responsive curricula. She says that regional adult education programs must, “possess an ability to change rapidly and remain flexible while keeping in mind the constraints of part-time instructional staff. They must celebrate the successes of the program and of students and remain in tune with the rapidly changing economic trends and needs of the area.” 

The program could not have achieved its goals without the work and support of many contributors, including: 

  • School Division Superintendents
  • The fiscal agent, Washington County Public Schools
  • Mount Rogers Regional Advisory Board Members
  • The Adult Education Program Specialist, Lead Teachers, Instructional Staff, and Office Staff
  • Local literacy organizations including:
    • The Highlands Educational Literacy Program in Abingdon,
    • the SCALE program in Smyth County, and
    • the One-on-One Literacy group serving Wythe and Grayson Counties
  • The Regional Literacy Coordinating Committee
  • Business, industry, and agency partners
  • The adult learners in the Mount Rogers Region who put forth all the extra effort to pursue lifelong learning 

All the members of the Mount Rogers adult education family are to be commended for the success of this regional effort. In the words of Deborah Lowe Duty, “YOU DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” Congratulations on ten very successful years and best wishes for many more!


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