Adult education teacher wins humanitarian award

Winnie Thompson is presented with the John N. Pappas Humanitarian Award

Winnie Thompson and Michael Sweeney,
Mayor of Hayward

By Michelle Meyers

October 31, 2004

Hayward —Winnie Thompson, who Thursday night was honored with the city's prestigious John N. Pappas Humanitarian Award, isn't one for basking in yesterday's accomplishments.

She's too busy plotting tomorrow's endeavors in her ongoing effort to help adults achieve literacy and success.

"The award inspires me to want to do more," said Thompson, a teacher at Hayward Adult School's Learning Center.

Less than a day after Thompson received the award, she already knew how she would like to use the award money—on an instructional video that adult students can watch to brush up on math skills.

Thompson's community contributions run the gamut. She has been a producer at Channel 28's community access TV station since 1985 and has co-hosted the show "Best Kept Secrets" for two years.

She also has been involved locally in the Literacy Plus Council, Hayward Arts Council and the National League of American Pen Women. And she's a stilt walker who performs for children as the fairy princess A. Startlin' Bell.

But she's most driven by her adult students whom she views as her extended family.

As for Thompson's students, many of whom are dealing with family problems, language barriers and other social hurdles, they herald her as much more than a teacher of academics. In past interviews, they've said she has instilled hope and confidence and taught them to smile in the face of difficulties.

One of her unique teaching methods is through a book she authored, Fast Forward to Phonics. Another is through a book she is editing called My Name Is America, a collection of her student's life stories, which are simultaneously heart-wrenching and inspiring.

The Pappas Award is the most esteemed of the city's volunteer awards, picked by a seven-member selection panel. It's given to someone who is consistently giving and who "extends a feeling of welcome to others," said steering committee member Gail Lundholm.