From the Field: Lifelong Educator & Mentor

Joan Exley in the new space in Nelson's city hall. Photo by Chris Shepherd.

Joan Exley in the space dedicated to literacy programs  in Nelson’s city hall (Nelson Post photo).

Joan Exley started out as a volunteer adult tutor 15 years ago and has since become an influential member within the community-based literacy landscape in British Columbia.

A lifelong learner and educator, Joan has been in the game a long time. She studied special education and she enjoyed a career as an elementary school teacher, but she always knew that it was a stepping stone to something else…something bigger, as it turns out.

Joan is one of those rare people you find in your community that is selfless and giving to the point where helping others trumps her own personal needs. Over the years she has given back to her community in spades, volunteering with the deaf and the disabled, and of course she gives her time to adult literacy as a Literacy Outreach Coordinator, where she thrives.

“I began volunteering for the adult literacy program because I am passionate about learning and I am committed to giving back to my community,” she explained. Volunteering and giving back was and still is something Joan wanted to model for her children. “I had small children and it was a great way to express that side of myself at that time in my life. I had no idea it would lead to where I am now.”

Joan is now is one of the most respected literacy practitioners in the field. She has been an integral part of growing community-based literacy in the Kootenays over the years. In fact she played a key role in forming the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL), an organization that promotes literacy and lifelong learning throughout 77 communities across the region.

As the Literacy Outreach Coordinator in Nelson, Joan also played a key role in creating The Learning Place, a literacy centre where locals can find programs ranging from children and family to adult learners to senior’s computer classes.

Having grown up with her own literacy challenges, Joan relates to the people she works with and tutors, “I understand what it feels like to struggle with reading and lack confidence in your own learning. That makes my commitment to helping people grow as Learners all the stronger.”

It is because of the support and passion of people like Joan that community-based literacy is making a difference in Nelson and across the province: she is a teacher, a mentor, a learner, a colleague, a cheerleader, and an advocate. Joan believes in the philosophy that “… we are stronger together than we are apart.” And anyone who has worked with her can attest to this fact.

“I feel like we make an impact every day. Sometimes it is small and quiet. Sometimes it is loud and powerful.” When you look at what she has accomplished for literacy, we believe Joan’s work is always loud and powerful!

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