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2021 ACE Annual Conference

 September 27-29, 2021

Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront

St. Petersburg, Florida

Keynote: Josh Davies
Josh Davies Headshot

Josh Davies is passionate about helping others make a difference in their lives, jobs, and community. Through his work as a speaker and trainer, he has engaged and encouraged professionals across North America, the Middle East, and Asia. An in-demand speaker, Josh gives keynote presentations and workshops to more than thirty education, workforce, and corporate events annually. In preparation for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, he led the training for all 10,000 volunteers and more than 4,000 local service professionals for the event. Training Magazine named him as one of the top 10 trainers under 40 in America and the Denver Business Journal tapped him as one of Denver’s 40 Under 40.

Josh has been awarded the Mile High Energy Award by Visit Denver, and an honorary Doctorate of Foodservice by the North American Food Equipment Manufacturers Association for his contributions to the industry. He has been appointed by the Governor to serve a second term on the Executive Board of the Colorado Workforce Development Council, and to Chair the State Education and Training Steering Committee. He also chairs the P-Tech Selection Committee for Colorado, and serves on the board of the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative. Josh previously served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, was President of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART), and co-chaired the Colorado State Youth Council.

Conference Presentations and Materials

Adult Education: A Year in Review

New Adult Education Administrator’s Meeting

Support Systems Potential Adult Learners Need – Margaret Patterson

Tuesday, September 28 – Concurrent Session IV – 8:30 am – 9:30 am

Tuesday, September 28 – Concurrent Session V – 9:40 am – 10:40 am

Tuesday, September 28 – Concurrent Session VI – 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Tuesday, September 28 – Concurrent Session VII – 1:15 pm – 2:15 pm

Tuesday, September 28 – Concurrent Session VIII – 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm

Administrator’s Meeting

Wednesday, September 29 – Concurrent Session IX – 9:40 am – 10:40 am

Wednesday, September 29 – Concurrent Session X – 10:50 am – 11:50 am

Conference Pictures
ACE Conference Award Winners

Administrators come and go, but our John E. Lawrence Administrator of the year is one that you remember forever. It was not until this deserving woman becamethe school’s assistant principal that major change took place within the organization and direction of the school and its programs – a multi-year commitment from an administrator who believes in the adult education model!

She is the first administrator at her school to become entrenched with the local community, volunteering for civic organizations, creating relationships with local food banks to provide food    and free meals for her students, and building relationships that support internal scholarships created to offset student testing fees.

Internally, she recognized the need for building enrollment and created the Rising Educators program to tutor teachers holding a temporary certificate, making it easier for them to pass state tests. She reinstated the corrections program, increasing satellite classes to include    probation sites (7) in addition to servicing the local jails. She implemented the school’s GEDi and IET programs partnering with the County’s vocational schools. She continues to support both the Literacy Council and the Farmworker’s Program (both located on campus) to change the lives and direction of low-level English literacy and migrant students.

Enrollment has risen by over 7 seven percent as a result of her efforts. Most recently, she  partnered with Polk Vision to hold a community-wide FAFSA event with translators. She also began the Helping Hands Scholarship program where people in the community can sponsor a GED or ESOL student by paying for tuition or testing.

In addition, she has implemented the first Spanish GED cohort classes in Central Florida  both on campus and online, implemented life skills assemblies, and supplied headset translators to her ESOL students to better aide them in adapting to American culture. When Covid hit, she successfully transitioned the teachers and students to online classes.

She oversees all external public relations efforts to share her school and its accolades with the public, has written the necessary grants (three major) needed to fund both Adult Schools, works with the county and local law enforcement to secure the school safety guardian on campus for day and night classes and our students know she has an open-door policy. It is not unusual to find her chatting with  students for no other reason than to learn who they are….their life stories are her passion! She has had an immeasurable positive impact on the students and staff in her district and we are honored to present Dr. Danielle DeConcilio as the 2021 John E. Lawrence Administrator of the Year.

This years teacher of the year is one of a kind. She is an absolute rockstar who is passionate about the success of ALL students but English Language Learners are nearest to her heart. Because of this, she has studied and practiced her teaching craft until success in her class is unavoidable. She shares everything – her lessons, her resources, her knowledge and her passion. Her students fall in love with learning because she makes it fun and easy. Her colleagues rave about her and the district department requests repeatedly for her to conduct trainings on curriculum, technology, ESOL strategies & engagement. Her expertise led her schools COVID pivot to online learning which led to a 60% increase in online learning. She has been with her current school since August 2015 and came highly recommended by her supervisors. In the years since, she has outperformed even those exceptional recommendations. She is essential to her Adult Ed program and one of the key reasons enrollment increased over 200% the year she joined. She started as an Adult ESOL teacher and quickly moved into a position as a mentor and coach. Although she loves the classroom and still teaches, she accepted the position of ESOL Coordinator and recently took over as GED Coordinator as well. While she excels in this role, she also never gave up teaching and is constantly bringing new and innovative ideas to improve the programs instructional impact on students. She understands the needs of the learner and works collaboratively with the team to meet those needs. Learning gains have increased significantly since she came on due to implementation of her pacing guides streamlining curriculum delivery, motivational slides to encourage use of learning software outside the classroom, video recordings to improve digital literacy and training provided to staff and students. Last term she started an extra class on Saturdays teaching ESOL Civics online and her impact led to over 60% increase in enrollment of adults from 2019-2021 and had 62.5% LCPs in ESOL classes during Summer 2021.

She stands out as an exceptional educator, is frequently asked to be a presenter a district level professional development and constantly strives to make connections with her community and her students. It is a great honor today to recognize Mackenzie Shiau as the 2021 ACE of Florida Teacher of the Year!

The instructional support staff of the year award is going to a worthy nominee whose work habits and character embody positive regard for all faculty, staff and students. She supports the instructional process in many ways and is a strong collaborator on national, statewide and local levels. Her name is synonymous with CASAS and adult education in general throughout the state of Florida. She has been an integral part in her schools adult education program for almost a dozen years but her influence goes well beyond the walls of her school. She is a formal and informal leader and role model for her colleagues at other schools, faculty and staff and especially students; primarily as a source of answers and support but also as a second language learner herself.

She is the adult education department chair at her campus and in this role she supports counselors, registrars, career advisors, teachers and students to deliver the highest quality program that leads to transition and life-changing opportunities. She also works directly with her own online students to ready them for earning their Florida High School Diploma. She approaches these roles with such vigor and enthusiasm and they are just the tip of the iceberg for someone who is unwilling to say no or to work tirelessly without hesitation when the benefit to a student or educator is the reward for her efforts.

She is willing to go above and beyond simply because she takes pride in the outcomes of her work and sees the value and potential in every single student. One simply cannot explain enough, how valuable each student is in her heart but once understood, all of the extra work and effort she pours into every day makes all the more sense. Most people will work to the description of their job title, others to the confinement of calendar and time in a day, for her, there are no limits or ends to what she is willing to do to make things happen if the result is an easier path for someone else. She is constantly providing direct assistance to teachers, colleagues and students at all hours of the day and night.

Not only does she exhibit habits of excellence in every single task and encounter that she is part of, but she does also so with the warmth, enthusiasm and integrity of only the greatest people that one could ever hope to meet. Her joy is infectious which is a huge reason that she is so trusted and often approached for many opportunities to contribute. She always says yes with a smile and excitement that encourages others to believe there is never too much to ask or too small a request for her to take on. It is my distinct pleasure to present the 2021 ACE of Florida, Instructional Support Staff of the Year award to Cristina Urena!

The non-instructional support staff of the year award is going to someone whose limitless drive to support the educational pathways of adult ESOL students at her school is done by any means possible. Instead of doing tasks as explained in the job classification, she identifies needs throughout the program and single-handedly does what is necessary to make sure those needs are properly addressed and filled. By title, she is a program registrar. However, she is so much more than that to her ESOL family and the students they serve. She very quickly becomes the first friendly face and lasting connection that new students to her program will make. She is the backbone of the program, connecting her “new friends” with teachers of the classes they will start their educational journey with. Yes, her formal title is registrar, but her informal ones include: mentor, career advisor, cheerleader, instructional technologist, life coach, friend and role model. She often works late into the night attending to job duties that were not covered during the day as she spent her time lending a helping hand to a colleague, designing a spreadsheet to making test scheduling flow more efficiently, applying tuition assistance to a student account so that they can continue without having to divulge openly the financial difficulties they are facing.  There is no training program to produce a non-instructional support member like her. All the things that make her special do not come from explanation or from reasoning and training, they come directly from her heart. It is her love for helping others that lead to excellence and superhuman effort in work ethic. As long as we have students that need help or staff members that can be better equipped to pour into their students with from her, then her work will never be done and she will never lose enthusiasm or momentum. Her tireless efforts are what make her great but her palpable love and commitment to what she does and why she does it, is what everyone else sees and has come to depend on. It is an honor today to recognize, Valerie Barthelus as the 2021 ACE of Florida Non-Instructional Support Staff of the Year!




In a busy world, how does the most happening adult school in Central Florida disseminate important information?  What entity could be so powerful yet care so much about the educational needs of ESOL and ABE/GED students? Why the Northeast Chamber of Commerce in Polk County! They are the source of information in Polk County for all things community related.


Each time they are needed, the Chamber is there. Whether they are heralding East Area Adult Ed’s goodness in their newsletter, on their website, attending events, or inviting our teacher of the year and school-related employee of the year for a special luncheon, they know what we do and they care. They proudly proclaim our awards, our achievements, our hopes and dreams to the masses. They are the community and we are them. We represent them and they us.


They know my name, my staff members’ names, and also students. They advertise class sites-main campus and satellite, day and night. When our own district webpage cannot keep up with our ever-changing data, the Chamber does. They spotlight our students and teachers. They freely advertise our community events. The Chamber understands the positive impact that educating adults has on the community. While they recognize that children are the future, they have not forgotten that those children have parents, and those parents need love, validation, and support, too. Here to accept the award for the 2021 ACE of Florida Media Promotion of the Year on

As the Mayor of Auburndale, Rotary Member, and small business owner, Mayor Timothy Pospichal-the man and owner of Auburndale Parks, Inc. is East Area Adult Schools patron of adult education.

As an active member of the School Advisory Committee, everywhere the mayor goes, he is a walking, breathing embodiment of spreading joy and the good news of the community. He was so moved by students that spoke at a Rotary meeting that he created “The Next Big Step” Scholarship, which is creating an endowment for this school year. He wants to ensure adult ed students have a helping hand to make their next big step in life. He is a proponent of education and  is a true servant leader. He is present for meetings, the naming of buildings, the giving of awards-whatever we ask. And he is always asking what more he can do.

He advocates not only for East Area but also the leaders of the school. He wrote a letter to the  new Superintendent, informing him of the worth of East Area and Danielle DeConcilio as her administrator. He wants the program to be seen and recognized. When he asks, “What do you need?” with gentle urgency and a furrowed brow, he always fulfills whatever makes the school better, whether it be speaking to a class, sponsoring students testing fees, or serving Christmas lunch to  students. He rolls up his sleeves and truly cares. We have all heard people say the right words but it is obvious their heart is not in it. The words are empty, merely filler. When Mr. Pospichal speaks, he yearns to help, for he understands our schools. He knows us.

Mayor Pospichal is the source of Auburndale’s communal cooperation. He is everywhere and all things-our ubiquitous cheerleader.  He is a mayor, a friend, a mentor, and the true epitome of love and respect. Timothy Pospichal (and   Auburndale Parks, Inc.) is simply our hero. We are honored today to present Timothy Pospichal and Auburndale Parks, Inc. with the 2021 ACE of Florida Business Supporter of the Year Award.

This dynamic husband and wife duo we are honoring today have been volunteering at East Area Adult School in  Auburndale for nearly a decade working both with students, and behind the scenes. This couple is simply amazing and give their time, talents, and resources in more ways than just “volunteering”! They provide a much-needed level of support for the adult students in Reading and Math. They serve on the School Advisory Council, bringing years of previous work experience, ethics, and  leadership. They love interacting with the students, staff, and community members, but they also willingly invest time to make copies, put booklets together, help with student celebrations, and bring a sense of joy with them.

They moved to Florida from Iowa, where he worked for the federal government in public relations and marketing, and she was a pre-school teacher and mother. When they arrived in Polk County, they looked for a place where they could use  their reading and math skills to make a difference. East Area Adult School was just the right fit for them. He committed to 2 days each week and rarely missed a day working with students struggling with advanced math skills as they prepared to take the GED test.  She joined him and soon they were coming 4 days each week. She works with students reading at the lowest level. Her patience with them is admirable.

From the beginning they asked the teachers how they could help the students. They build rapport with the students they tutor and have a great sense of humor. His students say that he makes the math concepts come alive so they are easier to understand. Her students love her because she adds a calm, kind, gentle  spot in their life.

Their positive attitudes and willingness to do anything has made them great additions to  the volunteer pool. We are honored today to recognize a great couple, Steve and Nancy Abney as the 2021 ACE of Florida Volunteers of the Year!

The 2021 ACE of Florida President’s Award was given to Neeta Rancourt of Broward County. Neeta is fierce advocate for adult education and is ever deserving of this prestigious award.

For nearly four decades, ACE of Florida has honored the state’s most outstanding educators who have dedicated their lives in service to adult education, with their induction into the ACE of Florida Hall of Fame.  It is the highest honor that ACE of Florida bestows on our colleagues.

Over the years we have honored individual chancellors, superintendents, teachers, administrators, and others who have dedicated their lives and careers to adult education, many of whom have served on the ACE of Florida Board of Directors.  As the plaque to my right signifies, their names have become a permanent part of the history of ACE of Florida.

These past 18 months have been, for most of us, the most challenging personal and professional times of our lives.  This is especially true for health care professionals, first responders and yes, teachers.  Across our state, teachers have performed under conditions no one could have ever imagined; teaching virtually and in-person, teaching behind plexiglass, and teaching behind a mask became common place all across our state.

While we have all faced seemingly insurmountable challenges these past months, our adult education teachers have risen to overcome those challenges to continue to do what they do best; enable our students to realize their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.  Teaching under these conditions has been nothing less than heroic.

In recognition of YOUR unbelievable commitment to teaching adult education and your commitment to the success of your adult education students across Florida, and so that we never forget your contribution and sacrifice you have made these past 18 months, it is my honor, and that of the ACE of Florida Board of Directors, to formally induct all of the adult education teachers around the state, as represented by those of you in the room today, into the ACE of Florida Hall of Fame.


*We were honored to put together a video for this presentation, it can be viewed here.*

ACE Conferences

Conference Info:

Please submit your proposal for the 2021 conference presentation sessions.

Registration for the 2021 ACE Conference is now open!

You may register one of two ways:

Print out and complete the Conference Registration  and fax or email back to the ACE office;


Register ONLINE.

Full Conference Registration for ACE Members – $475

Full Conference Registration for Non-ACE Member – $550

One Day Registrations Available and prices vary by day.  Please see the Conference Registration Form for more information, or call the ACE office, (850) 222-2233.


Mark your calendar for September 27-29 and plan to exhibit at the 31st Annual ACE Conference! This year’s theme is “The Power of Adult Ed. The Power of You!”.

We are anticipating 300+ adult teachers, administrators and volunteers from around the state to attend this year’s professional development event. Another exciting, fun, and information-packed conference is being planned and exhibitors are a big part of making the ACE Conference a success. Exhibitors add a different layer of opportunity for conference attendees to share and learn new ideas and practices in adult education.

Help drive conference attendees to your booth and let your brand shine by sponsoring an event at the conference. We hope you will take advantage of the extra exposure provided to sponsors by checking out the various opportunities in the exhibitor packet attached below.

The deadline for submitting your Exhibitor Application is August 30th. Exhibits will open Monday, September, 27th through Wednesday, September 29th. Requests for electricity for your exhibit space will be purchased directly through the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront. Wireless internet service will need to be purchased for the exhibit booth area. ACE recommends using your company air card for internet service at your booth if you need to demonstrate any software or products.  If you require hardwire internet at your booth, please complete attached JSAV forms.


Hotel Picture

Hotel/Reservation Information

Hotel: Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront

Group Name: ACE of Florida Meeting

Hotel Rates:  $159.00 Single/Double

Reservations:  Hilton St. Pete Bayfront

Reservation Deadline:  August 23, 2021

Parking:  Valet only @ Hilton $27.00/day

We are looking for student success stories to share at the 2021 ACE Conference Opening Session! ACE of Florida and the Florida Department of Education, Division of Career and Adult Education will be recognizing one to two adult education students who have reached their life goals as a result of their participation in the adult education system and are now active in their communities.

Student nominees can be current or former students.
The student success stories recognition will take place at the ACE Conference Opening Session, Monday, September 27th.
Please take the time to nominate and share your student success stories.

Be sure to get the student permission slip signed giving permission to share their story.
What better way to showcase the wonderful outcomes of adult education in Florida!

The deadline to submit a success story is August 27th.
If you have any questions regarding the success story packet, please contact Ashley Olevitch at the ACE office, or (850) 222-2233.

ACE is now accepting nominations in 7 categories to honor those among us whose contributions to our students and programs merit special recognition.  The winners will be awarded the Golden Apple at the ACE Conference Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, September 29th.  If you would like to nominate someone, please download the ACE Achievement Awards Packet, complete the application forms and email to the ACE office.  Deadline for nominations is August 20th.