Profiling literacy and numeracy specialists

Since the introduction of the TAELLN Certificate lV unit we have received many queries asking what defines a literacy and numeracy specialist. The LN field is diverse and experience and qualifications vary. In a recent submission to the FSK review, ACAL considered that the level of qualification and experience of those working effectively in the field is not necessarily correlated to their degree of impact, but we believe specialised qualifications and experience are likely to result in good practice. See the full statement here.

In this section we profile LN specialists to demonstrate the range of qualifications and experience that lead to expertise in the field. We encourage all readers to refer to the National Framework as a reminder that the TAELLN411 unit is an awareness unit and is at the start of a journey in LN teaching. For those wishing to extend from awareness to developing teaching skills we encourage shadowing, mentoring and training –  several RTOs  are currently delivering the TAE80113 Graduate Diploma in LLN Practice and information can be found at

Wendy Kennedy

Wendy Kennedy

VET Lecturer / Workplace Assessor - Adult Literacy & Numeracy, Charles Darwin University

Wendy has over thirty years’ experience in Adult General Education, focussing on the design, management and implementation of high quality, customised, adult Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) programs for organisations and communities. Seventeen years of this experience was gained working in remote Indigenous education in Gunbalanya, a community in Western Arnhemland in the Northern Territory (NT).

There, Wendy developed a high level of skill and understanding of the cross-cultural issues associated with the delivery of accredited and non-accredited adult LLN programs in community environments. She was instrumental in establishing the highly successful Injalak Arts and Crafts Association, through which Gunbalanya’s Indigenous artists have been able to acquire skills, develop their local industry and control the commercialisation of their artwork.

When Wendy relocated to Darwin, initially employed at the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE and later at Charles Darwin University (CDU), she continued her commitment to adult education, through management and implementation of adult LLN programs for local organisations, regional and remote communities and involvement in offshore projects.  She has established and maintained extensive professional networks throughout the NT and beyond, liaising with industry representatives and government departments to identify workforce training needs and coordinating training in consultation with employers. The breadth of her work includes curriculum writing, delivering training from Certificate I to Graduate Diploma level and the TAE.

Wendy provides leadership in specialist areas of literacy and numeracy within her work role at CDU, providing professional development sessions to staff on the Australian Core Skills Framework. Other contributions to the field include acting as NT Representative for the National Access Education Leaders Network since 2011 and as the NT Representative for the Reading Writing Hotline Steering Group. Over time, Wendy has developed and demonstrated a deep understanding of the complexities of LLN policy and practice, remaining committed to improving the literacy and numeracy levels of adults so they can reach their full potential, just as the over 300 local artists at Injalak have done.

Deb Guntrip

Deb Guntrip

Debra Guntrip is a finalist in the Australian Training Awards for the Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award. Her role delivering workplace literacy with TasTAFE has led her to work in a range of workplaces supporting employers and members of their workforces to strengthen language, literacy and numeracy skills on the job.

Deb moved to Tasmania with her family about 20 years ago. After a successful career running her own hairdressing business, she saw the move as an opportunity to start a new career that wasn’t as tiring on her arms. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Adult and Vocational Education and volunteered with Adult Literacy and Basic Education Tasmania. After graduating, she moved into paid work establishing community projects using accredited training. She loved the role of tailoring projects for community groups.

Since beginning work with TasTAFE, Deb has focussed on work-based literacy projects using funding from 26TEN, the previous WELL program, and other fee-for-service sources. She works with employers to explore their context, design a program with them and develop the application for funding. She then delivers the program and completes the reporting requirements. She seems to thrive on the project-based nature of her work.

The program content generally centres around workplace procedures. Deb will often assist in developing accessible procedural documentation using Plain English and the inclusion of graphics. She then trains staff to interpret as well as write procedures. This fits well with the broad approach to workplace literacy promoted by 26TEN. That is, where possible, bring the complexity of workplace documents closer to ACSF level 3 at the same time as learners/workers are trained to strengthen their skills to meet this level. 26TEN does not require the use of accredited training, but learner progress is mapped against the ACSF using the finer gradations approach identified by Escalier McLean (2013)[1].

The training Deb conducts sees her working all hours of the day and in all areas of the business. This has included regularly doing training in a grader cab, working in the production and hatchery areas at salmon farms, on apiary sites with beekeepers, and working at an abattoir. When working one-on-one with learners, she has a maxim of “what do you need right now?” This might be directly related to work or specific to other aspects of the person’s life. One of the stories she shared, which exemplifies her approach, was working with a young man employed as a boner at the abattoir. He had ambitions of becoming a drover, so Deb worked with him to develop his vocabulary and numeracy specific to that role. He went on to successfully apply for the new role.

[1] Escalier McLean Consulting. (2013). ‘Exploration project on reporting Language Literacy and Numeracy outcomes using finer gradations of the Australian Core Skills Framework, ACSF’. Skills Tasmania. Available from

Jill Finch

Jill Finch

Jill Finch has taught literacy and numeracy to adults for more than 30 years. A Head Teacher for 25 years, Jill has broad experience across many programs, locations and learners, from beginner literacy and numeracy through to graduate level programs, and delivery of professional development.  She has worked with volunteers, in trades, in community-based and indigenous programs, and in the workplace.  She has had roles in curriculum development, LLN policy review, and teacher practicums.

With initial qualifications in high school English and ESL teaching, Jill was attracted into adult literacy straight from university, with the expectation that she would undertake further specialist study. She subsequently completed postgraduate/Masters qualifications in Adult Ed, Special Ed, Adult LLN, and Applied Linguistics/TESOL.  This gives a thorough academic underpinning to her work, but she feels that her early experience learning from other ABE teachers with a strong grounding in adult education has given her a lifelong commitment to student-centred, needs-based learning.

Jill’s areas of LLN interest include team teaching in vocational Learner Support, and working with Indigenous learners. For many years Jill coordinated VET learner support at one of the largest TAFE Colleges in Australia and worked to build successful relationships with vocational sections, via LN screening programs, customizing resources, and ongoing team-teaching.

Jill has a long involvement in the development of the adult LLN field through active roles in union and professional organisations.  She was President of the NSW Adult Literacy & Numeracy Council for many years, planning and running regular seminars to develop and share teaching expertise.  She feels a great sense of loss that systems and compliance matters are now the sole focus of PD in VET currently.

More recently, Jill has been working as a project officer for the national Reading Writing Hotline, liaising with government, community organisations, industry, and LLN providers on policy issues, adult literacy promotion and LLN resources.  Jill is also teaching by distance on the Graduate Diploma in Adult LLN Practice, drawing on her broad background to deliver LLN teacher education. She also continues with a long-standing customized workplace program for local government, teaching digital literacy to outdoor workers.

Dalia Kaldas

Dalia Kaldas

As a Language, Literacy and Numeracy teacher Dalia’s aim is to ensure that her students experience success in their learning. Many students in this area have experienced difficulties in their life or in their learning so it is vital for her as a teacher to plan lessons aimed at their skill level. Once a student experiences success in learning, self confidence improves and students are then willing to take more risks in learning and broaden their goals for further study or employment.

Dalia’s expertise has developed through her diverse teaching experiences and her qualifications. Beginning with a Diploma of Teaching and Bachelor of Education (Primary), Dalia refined adult LN teaching expertise through completing a Graduate Diploma in Adult Basic Education.

Dalia has been involved in many areas of teaching Adult Basic Education. She has taught face to face adult literacy and numeracy classes since 1994. Classes taught have ranged from beginner to advanced levels, Energy Australia (now AUSGRID) and Railcorp  Indigenous pre-apprenticeship programs to WELL programs working with workers at Sydney Day Nurseries and Columbia Nursing Homes, Jemena Gas Company and Uniting Care as well as teaching on LLNP funded classes. Some classes had a literacy focus while other classes were mainly numeracy focussed. At Barangaroo Skills Exchange, Dalia assessed all new workers for language, literacy and numeracy needs and provided 1:1 support to students who needed assistance in rigging, dogging and other workcover tickets. Dalia’s hint to new teachers is to understand that all teaching, whether group, 1:1 or a team teaching situation, requires forethought of the essential skills, preparation and a consideration of how to teach the content.

Since 2012 Dalia has also taught adult basic literacy and numeracy by distance, through post and increasingly online. Other cohorts Dalia has worked with to develop LN include youth at risk, vocational learners requiring support, migrants, and learners with a disability.

Dalia was the coordinator of a volunteer tutor program involving training members of the community in how to assist adults in reading, writing, oracy and computer skills. She matched volunteers to adults in the community who required assistance in language and literacy skills and supported volunteers by providing resources for them to use with their students.

In addition to teaching, Dalia has also developed expertise through other roles, including mapping training package units against the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) for skills service organisations and to inform the writing of literacy and numeracy Indicator tools. She has also worked as a Literacy Numeracy Consultant for the Board of Studies in NSW. This involved taking part in the standards setting process for the Board’s Literacy test for school leavers, the ROSA.

Dalia is a member of NSWALNC and ACAL.