Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) offers an expanded catalog of more than 60 classes this winter and spring. There are graduate level programs, college credit classes, a high school equivalency program and general education courses that cover a wide range of topics from women’s auto repair to French cooking and piano to birding, conversational Portuguese and an international volunteer service work project in Brazil.
Some classes begin this month, others begin at various times through the winter and spring. Most classes are held at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. All classes are taught on-Island.
“We try to use instructors from the Island to facilitate the development of a lifelong student-mentor relationship,” said ACE MV director Lynn Ditchfield. “We have an amazing amount of local resource people who are experienced professors and educators and are excited about being able to offer courses here on the Island.”
She said that some instructors come from off-Island. There are charges for the classes, but Ms. Ditchfield says that, “No one has been turned away who cannot pay.” Most credit programs are taught in conjunction with Cape Cod Community College or Fitchburg State.
“ACE MV began in July of 2008, when I began helping with the education part of a program Annie Palches developed,” Ms. Ditchfield said. “She was working out of the superintendent of schools office and secured a grant that allowed us to manage a program, in conjunction with Cape Cod Community College, to teach early childhood education courses for Islanders who needed associate degrees to meet changing state requirements for people working with children. I looked around, saw a need, and the program has just taken off.”
Ms. Ditchfield explained, in a conversation this week, that many of the classes are the result of requests from Islanders who want to continue their own studies or want to learn something new. She said that the program has an advisory board of 70 people from all walks of life, ” a bunch of different people.” They form into task forces that deal with individual projects that range from course development and scheduling to fundraising and program management. One task force plans ACE MV’s “One-Day University: Arts Culture and Sustainability.” a program of speakers and workshops on June 23
Both the number of students and the number of course offerings have increased each year since the program began, according to Ms. Ditchfield. There were 548 enrolled for classes during ACE MV’s first academic year 2008-9, when 40 courses were offered. Last year, there were 1,028 students and this year more than 60 courses offered.
Ms. Ditchfield’s interest in community and adult education developed early in her career. Her first master’s degree was in adult community education in the 1980s. Lynn taught Spanish at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for 24 years and was head of the foreign language department for four of those years. Retiring in 2006, she returned in 2007-8 to fill a vacancy. During that time she raised a daughter, Mara, who is studying film at NYU and is now in Singapore filming, and a son, Brian, managing director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. Her husband, Michael, recently retired from counseling to work full-time writing novels. “My family has helped in enormous ways, helping with technical things that I have trouble with,” she said. “I find it so exciting to see our programs work. To see a learning community developing is what makes it so exciting.”