Ruth Sutton was the Director of the Community Education Department at District 113 for almost 20-years.
“I know that I will continue to be involved in the community,” Sutton said on the day of her retirement. “I feel very passionate about our program.”
The Community Education Department at District 113 is comprised of two programs, which include Continuing Education and Adult Education. Continuing Education offers courses to members of the community interested in enrichment. Among a long list, residents can chose from foreign language, computer and yoga classes. However, Sutton’s efforts were more focused on Adult Education, which is a federal and state funded program. The Adult Education Program offers residents English as a Second Language (ESL), General Educational Development (GED), employability skills, and other courses for students who have arrived from different countries.
“Many of them are already parents, they’re working two or three jobs, they many times do not have their own cars, transportation is an issue, childcare is an issue. Merely coming to class is a challenge,” Sutton explained about those enrolled in the program and why it’s such an asset to them.
“I think when a community offers the opportunity for members of the community to either further their education or really provide basic literacy skills, it really benefits not only the student, but the community as a whole.”
Sutton was a teacher in Chicago before she landed at District 113. She taught in the Community Education Department for five years before being named its director in 1994. During her time in charge, she helped expand the program; around 500 students are enrolled each year throughout six locations. Besides growing the program, Sutton’s biggest challenge was securing the funds for it. Each year, Sutton was tasked with writing grants to obtain the $500,000 desired.
When it came time to search for her replacement, Sutton knew the Department needed someone with a vast skillset. She was looking for a teacher, curriculum developer, someone who could understand and analyze the program’s data and most importantly, a grant writer. Sutton eventually landed on Reni Mitkova.
Mitkova hails from Bulgaria where she was a teacher. She currently lives in Gurnee with her family. Most recently, Mitkova was the ESL Director of Service Employment Redevelopment (SER) in Waukegan. She also taught at the College of Lake County.
“I feel that I’m primarily a teacher so I’m going to have a duel role,” Mitkova said about her new position at District 113. “I’m going to be an administrator but I’m going to be very hands on.”
Sutton and Mitkova got to know each other while members of the Lake County Area Planning Council. The state mandates grant recipients be part of area planning councils in an effort to maximize services offered and eliminate duplication.
Mitkova said she was thrilled to join District 113 and what she described as “one of the top programs in the state.”
“I’m hoping in the future to be able to expand if the demographics allow,” Mitkova said about her goals for the Adult Education Program and mentioned the possibility of a family literacy class for children and adults.
While Sutton plans to spend more time traveling with her husband during her retirement there are things she’ll miss, which is why she hopes to remain as active as possible.
“My favorite part of what I do is interacting with our students; I find it a very rewarding process,” she stated. “When you’re working with adults who have an intrinsic desire to come to school after working all day and caring for their children, that’s a very special population.”