In Memory of Elia

Elia Dreyfuss- “Adult Educator of the Year”

When I think of whom I aspire to be as an ABE practitioner, I think of someone who 

  •   is a master teacher
  •  is compassionate and fiercely committed to the practice of Social Justice
  • is a tireless advocate for her students
  •  rejects classist, racist, or sexist stereo types
  • celebrates diversity in all its forms
  •  is curious about other cultures
  • understands that collaboration leads to something that is greater than the sum of the individual parts 

Elia was this person. 

Her resume reflects her commitment to social justice:

  • working as an conservationist in California (she is an unabashed, self-described “tree-hugger”)
  • working as a low-income tenants organizer in the Bay Area
  • working as a legal advocate for low-income communities in the Bay Area
  • working as a health outreach worker in Mexico
  • working as an ESOL teacher/ABE-TCC counselor in Holyoke for the last 20 years

She was the proud daughter of a Jewish immigrant who worked much of his life for the Socialist Workers Party in California.  Even in her position as Coordinator of the ABE-Transition to College and Careers Program at Holyoke Community College, she still described herself as “working class” and rejected the notion that she had attained (or aspired to) the “bourgeois  middle class.”  She remained committed to the struggle for equality for all, “en la lucha.” 

Elia was committed to her principles and to excellence. She held the bar high and invited and motivated her students and colleagues to join her there. At every ABE-TCC graduation I have attended, so many of the students have said they never would have made it to college without her support. The first time we carpooled to a conference together, Elia had signed up for a college car to drive.  She drove 55 mph. all the way to Boston on the Mass Turnpike, because, “…driving 55 pollutes less.”  

She was opinionated, but she was also an empathetic listener.  

She had the rare ability to demand more of her students (and colleagues) than they thought was possible (or reasonable); combining uncompromising commitment, humor, passionate compassion, and when necessary tough love to achieve the goal. 

Elia’s students love and respect her for how she helped them achieve their goals and that’s why they continue to come back to the ABE-TCC program year after year to tutor and mentor our students. 

Over the past thirty years Elia influenced the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people and their families.  For those people and their families, she made the world a better place. 

She will be missed. 

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About cepholyoke

Executive Director, Community Education Project
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