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2014 Volunteer Spotlights

Use the links below to see specific people, or browse at your leisure!

jeanne saletanJeanne Saletan (December 2014)

Jeanne has been a committed ABE volunteer tutor since 2009. She has donated over 1,000 volunteer hours so far. In addition to hours spent as a tutor teaching in the classroom, Jeanne has also supported the agency in speaking engagements. She is tireless advocate for literacy in community.

We are very thankful for all the time and support Jeanne provides to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

By happy accident I found Literacy Advance five years ago. I was retired and seeking a meaningful volunteer job that uses my interpersonal skills and creativity.


~ What changes have you seen over five years?

We have more and better resources for tutors. I love to spend time browsing in the resource room. We have expanded computer classes on-site. A counselor is available for job-finding.


~ What inspires you?

My learners whom I get to know one-on-one. Each is unique in their way of learning. I try to guide accordingly. Being able to read and write allows you to satisfy your natural curiosity and be a more active participant in life around you.


~ What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

Volunteering keeps me challenged to grow and be a better tutor.  I learn something in each class. I am supported by a devoted and professional staff.


~ What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor?

Acknowledge each step your learner makes toward greater literacy. Be patient, be respectful, and be flexible.  If one method doesn't work, try another. Use your sense of humor.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

This is a great place to work even if you don't get paid in money!


THANK YOU SO MUCH, Jeanne!

george richesonGeorge Richeson (November 2014)

George has been a committed volunteer tutor at Literacy Advance Bay Area since February 2012! He generously gives us two of his nights each week as he helps two different students achieve their goals.

While one does not have to be an expert in HVAC, boiler making, or narrative writing to tutor with us – George is! And we are so thankful that he brings all his background knowledge into the classroom for his students.


~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

When I retired some folks said that retirement is the “kiss of death,” since some retirees pass away shortly after retiring. My approach is to stay busy in a rewarding volunteer “career.” I believe that’s a really healthy way to go – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I began my literacy volunteering in Brenham, TX about 12 years ago. I had great experiences there such as working with a Vietnamese lady who escaped the Communists, writing her story (which was subsequently published in the local paper), and working with a dyslexic man who had never learned to read. He moved up to a 6th grade reading level during our work over several years.

When I moved to Houston, I googled literacy volunteering and found Literacy Advance of Houston. And, to my pleasure, found the Bay Area location.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

I have been assigned two students, and am thoroughly enjoying working with them, improving their writing skills, and helping with some of their work related literacy needs.  It’s a neat feeling to be able to help people and see them progress.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

I recommend volunteering in general and Literacy Advance of Houston is a good group of folks to work with if literacy is your area of interest.


~ Any favorite tutoring materials or lesson plans?

The office has resources available such as computers, books, and reading materials appropriate for literacy learners. In addition, I just used some of my life experience and memory from high-school in working with my students. (High school was about 55 years ago!)


~ What other activities are you involved in?

One of my other activities is reading.  I’m reading several books right now: The Problem of Pain and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis; The Fourth Revolution by Micklethwait & Wooldridge; and Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field by Forbes & Mahon.

Another activity I enjoy is being with my seven sweet grandchildren. On vacation several months ago, I was privileged to hike up to the South Rim in Big Bend National Park with my son and spend two days camping and viewing the spectacular night sky of west Texas.

Overall, I’m having a great time.


THANK YOU SO MUCH, George!

ruben elustondoRuben Elustondo (October 2014)

Ruben has been a committed supporter since 2012. He has devoted himself to the mission of Literacy Advance in many capacities: Ruben serves as the Vice President of our Board of Directors, is a member of our Programs Committee, and - on top of it all - is a volunteer presenter at Family Literacy events!

We are very thankful for all the time and support Ruben provides to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

When I was getting close to retirement, I thought about using my experience by joining the board of a non-profit organization, and giving back to the community some of the many things I have received throughout my life.

After retirement in 2012, I got a list of agencies participating in the United Way Board Fair, and selected a couple that seemed to be a possible fit in terms of their activities and my interest. Education has always been something that I’ve been interested in, and it took just one meeting with Literacy Advance management to tell me that this was the right place.

I enjoyed free education through college in Argentina, my parents always encouraged me to study, and I was the first person in my family to obtain a college degree. I consider it a major change-factor in my life, and want others to have the same opportunity in order to improve their quality of life for themselves and their families.

My wife, my two children, and I also went through the process of adapting to a new country with language and habits different from our native Argentina. Free education and facing cultural and language challenges are well aligned characteristics of my background and Literacy Advance activities.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

I believe that volunteering is a little known secret to improving the feelings about yourself and the community. Through volunteering you’re giving – one of the most rewarding experiences a human being can have – and, at the same time, getting to become more aware of the needs of others. I found that the environment at Literacy Advance is one of the most exciting places I’ve been involved with because of the enthusiasm, commitment, and gratitude of staff, volunteers, and learners.


~ Tell us about your experience volunteering in many roles at Literacy Advance.

When I joined Literacy Advance I was asked to lead, based on my prior corporate experience, a new committee focused on Programs. This allowed me to get involved in the many activities the agency manages. I observed classes and learned a lot about the ESL and ABE programs. By doing so, I understood that these programs are not just a learning tool but they are aimed at working on specific needs of the students. Thereby enabling students to get better jobs, become more involved in their children’s education, and providing the tools to be more effective in integrating themselves with the community.

I found that the Family Literacy events are an excellent vehicle to unify the family behind education. Seeing the happiness at those children faces when receiving what could be their first book provides a feeling that I would encourage everybody to enjoy by attending a Family Literacy Night. Being a member of the board also gave me the opportunity to meet and work with an outstanding group of individuals that share a passion to help others and continue to make Literacy Advance a model agency in the adult education area.


~ What inspires you?

People that are working hard to make progress in life are always a source of inspiration, and I believe that dreams can come true if there is focus on a goal, hard work and perseverance. Literacy Advance is a vehicle that helps those individuals that want to put in the effort in improving their literacy level as a way to move ahead in life. Learning about the many success stories at Literacy Advance is a source of inspiration.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

I would say just go and try. You will find it is far more rewarding than you ever thought. Many people dream about retirement just to feel free to do anything they want, but most of them are a little scared when times come because they think there will be nothing to do.

I would tell everybody that there are many wonderful opportunities to help others and, most importantly, that it’s at your own pace. So you can select how much you want to be involved. For those that are working full time, volunteerism may provide a break to get out of the routine, stress, and rush of the daily job.

The gratitude, enthusiasm, and commitment you see in a group of volunteers are much more visible than in any working team I’ve ever seen, and may be a source of inspiration to apply to any work environment and rebuild the energy level.


~ What is your favorite book?

I like to read different types of books and magazines, and can’t mention just one. But, considering the work at Literacy Advance, the literature classic Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, comes to mind. Don Quixote was seen as a crazy knight fighting windmills, believing they were imaginary giants, in order to conquer the love of his beautiful bride. He was always after his dreams, and there was no enterprise that would make him abandon the pursuit of his goals.

At Literacy Advance, we help learners to pursue their dreams and fight the scary giants of limited career opportunities, children drifting apart from family values, computer illiteracy and the feeling of not belonging to the community. Just as Don Quixote had in Sancho a loyal squire, we provide learners with an army of loyal volunteers and a shiny armor of knowledge to go after their dreams.


THANK YOU SO MUCH, Ruben!

edrick romoEdrick Romo (September 2014)

Edrick has been a volunteer with Literacy Advance for 7 years and counting! He tutored ESL classes in 2007 and 2008, has helped at Family Literacy Nights, and was a member of Literacy Advance’s Young Professionals group. Currently he helps organize and manage our Volunteer Socials and regularly helps at Literacy Advance events.

We are happy to celebrate the 7 years of Edrick’s service to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

When I was a younger man in my early 20s, I was at a point in my life where I felt like I was focused completely on the selfish goals of worldly success - yet I did not feel any closer to a sense of happiness or fulfillment.  I have always been an avid reader, and truly believe in the calming effect that reading can have on the soul.  Around that time, I had just finished reading a book called The Nicomachean Ethics written by the philosopher Aristotle.

In his book, Aristotle explains how good thoughts and selflessness create more happiness than do material things.  He explains how being a good person consists of more than just deciding to be a good person.  The notion of “good” can only exist when paired with an activity - meaning that we can convince ourselves that we are good people, but without an activity that we can demonstrate this goodness through, we are likely only telling ourselves what we want to believe.

I resolved to stop living in the future and waiting for happiness.  I decided what type of person I wanted to be, and then I resolved to make myself that person through a repetition of activity over time.  I knew that I wanted my character to be in line with my word, so I sought out a way to give to others and destroy this selfishness that I had held in my heart up until that point.

God has helped me find peace where I once held resentment.  Reading has helped me in innumerable ways in my life and I want to share that with others.

I found Literacy Advance after searching for literacy programs in the Houston area online back in 2004. Literacy Advance was right down the street from my work, so that worked out perfectly.


~ What changes have you seen over seven years?

There have been many changes!  The Wilcrest office has gotten a complete makeover from when I remember having my class on Saturdays (I barely recognize it these days!).

There is a computer lab now, lots of new faces on the staff, and the programs themselves continue to evolve as well.  There is now testing done for learners so that their individual progress can be tracked.  That is really helpful for both learners and tutors as it gives a sense of accomplishment and purpose to all of the hard work.

Literacy Advance now has a Facebook page.  Back in my day we were working on getting a Literacy Advance MySpace page together!  Wh-what!?!?

Obviously the personnel has changed since my first years as an Literacy Advance tutor, but I have noticed a consistent professional attitude from all Literacy Advance staffers.


~ What inspires you?

I am inspired by nature walks, my dreams, and the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

I enjoy helping out anyone who seeks a way to improve themselves.  I also enjoy meeting new people and challenging myself to seek out new forms of personal self-growth.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Live your life in such way that, at any given time your mission in life can be said to be complete.


~ Any anecdote you would like to share with us about your volunteer experience?

I had a Saturday morning ESL class once.  On the first week of class, I introduced a random newspaper article about a robot dog being used at retirement communities to keep people company.  We used to take the last 15 minutes of every class to translate and read out loud little bits and pieces of the article until we were able to make our way through the entire thing over the course of a few weeks.  Afterwards, we threw ourselves a little class party with snacks to celebrate!  Learning does not get much more fun than that!


THANK YOU SO MUCH, Edrick!

john mcneilJohn McNeil (August 2014)

John has been a committed volunteer tutor at Literacy Advance for 10 years, and counting! He has been involved in ABE program since May, 2004.

We are happy to celebrate the 10 years of John’s service to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

I found Literacy Advance after searching for literacy programs in the Houston area online back in 2004. Literacy Advance was right down the street from my work, so that worked out perfectly.


~ What changes have you seen over ten years?

Obviously the personnel has changed since my first years as a Literacy Advance tutor, but I have noticed a consistent professional attitude from all Literacy Advance staffers.


~ What inspires you?

I most enjoy watching my student Byron making progress. He tells me regularly how much he appreciates our class.


~ What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor Adult Basic Education?

Patience is my key strategy. Progress with Adult Basic Education students will not be fast, dramatic, or miraculous. Incremental progress is to be expected and must be appreciated.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

I would encourage others considering tutoring to be patient, expect regressions, but keep your eyes focused on the ultimate goal of progress. This progress is deeply rewarding!


~ Any anecdote you would like to share with us about your volunteer experience?

My first Adult Basic Education student was a gentleman named Jimmy. He had been referred to Literacy Advance by a court order. Jimmy and I studied challenging material for about 6 months in 2004.

One day in December 2004, Jimmy discontinued our literacy class. "Why," I asked? Jimmy informed me that he had progressed to the point of securing his GED, and that was his ultimate goal. I was sad to lose him as a student, but I felt blessed that he had made so much progress so quickly. I wish ALL of my students would progress like that, but I have come to realize that everyone moves at their own pace.


THANK YOU SO MUCH, John!

roslyn metchisRoslyn Metchis (July 2014)

Roslyn has been a volunteer tutor at Literacy Advance for 15 years, and counting! She started as a tutor of an ESL class, and later became a trainer for new tutors. Last year she also started teaching Intensive English.

In addition to her involvement as a tutor, Roslyn helps by serving on the new Programs Committee, with Board members and staff, and has been a great advocate for Literacy Advance.

We are happy to celebrate the 15 years of Roslyn’s service to Literacy Advance!


~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

When my daughter left for college I realized that I would have extra time so I started several new activities. Literacy Advance is the one I have stayed with for 14 years.


~ You started to volunteer at Literacy Advance back when we were on Fountainview. What was like to volunteer in earlier days?

Actually, I never volunteered at the Fountainview  location.  We taught the Train the Trainer (which is what I started out doing - before I actually did any tutoring!) at various libraries, churches and community centers around the greater Houston area.

The Train the Trainer (TTT) at that time was two full Saturdays.  One of the big improvements that has occurred is the streamlining and additional relevancy of the current TTT class.  After that, I tutored at a community center - conveniently located halfway between my workplace and my home.

I encourage tutors to find a convenient location for tutoring - fighting Houston traffic and spending a lot of time commuting to a volunteer activity can be discouraging.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

The students and what I learn from them. It’s so much fun to see people progressing, feeling more at home in the US and able to do more things in a new language. I also learn many things about English when it is viewed from a new perspective!


~ What inspires you?

The students and their dedication to learning! Their interesting stories and backgrounds - the way they adapt to life in the US being far from their home country, family and friends.  I have become friends with some of my students and continue to get together with them long after they graduate from Literacy Advance.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Definitely give it a try. There are many different things you can do to help out.  Literacy Advance is wonderful about helping you find your niche and where you can be the most helpful.


~ Last year you started to teach Intensive English classes. What you would say to tutors who are considering being involved in this way?

I really like this [higher] level because I can have more in-depth conversations with the students. I am continually amazed at how much they know, and how much more they want to learn


~ Do you have any anecdotes you would like to share with us about your volunteer experience?

I asked my students to do a short (4 or 5 sentence) report on different aspects of the Houston Rodeo. They came back with iPod presentations, photos, music selections, picture books, etc! It was fantastic.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Roslyn!

mobley cox Mobley Cox (June 2014)

Mobley has been involved with Literacy Advance since March, 2002. He started tutoring regular ESL classes and in 2009 he moved to teaching Special Class for ESL students in History and Civics.

We are happy to celebrate the 12 years of Mobley’s service to Literacy Advance!



~ How long have you been volunteering at Literacy Advance?

I’m not sure about the exact number of years; however I started when the organization was located on Fountainview. [Editor's Note: Don't worry, Mobley, we're keeping track!]

~ You started to volunteer at Literacy Advance back when we were on Fountainview. What was it like to volunteer in earlier days?

The organization was always interesting, however it wasn't as large as it is now.

~ What brought you to Literacy Advance?

I continue to believe that the purpose of the organization is very worthwhile.

~ What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

It is a task of my choice. Helping people to improve their lives is an unusually positive task.

~ What inspires you?

To help people learn and improve their English.

~ What is your favorite book?

History books, in general.

~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

The task will take time, and it is not always easy. It is however a task that can be very rewarding. The service you can provide may take your time, but you will appreciate the process and the results. You will be helping people, people who want to learn. Their lives can be improved by your assistance.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Mobley!

vella allen

Vella Allen (May 2014)

This month we're celebrating Vella Allen who began tutoring at the Bay Area campus more than 10 years ago! She has been involved in teaching regular ESL classes and has donated more than 1,000 hours.

Vella is now embracing retirement from Literacy Advance but remains very active in the community, making visits to local seniors and providing counseling and ministry to residents in assisted living.  “My daughter says I need to retire from retirement,” Vella confides. We especially cherish her at Bay Area, and appreciate her parting words, “I’d love to help you any way I can.”

~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

I feel God has blessed me, so my volunteering is a way to say Thank You for the blessings I have received.

As I used to tell Joe, (the former Program Coordinator) – my joy and reward was seeing the face and eyes of a student when I saw that ‘Oh now I know what she means’ look.

~ What changes have you seen over the 10 years of your volunteer time?

Time back then was very “on your own.” Literacy Advance had partnered with my church and no training materials were provided.  I had no experience but I did it!

Ten years ago, things were quite different in other ways also. My first classes were held in the student’s apartments!

My journey began with three students from Liberia, and then a group from El Salvador. Next I worked with students from Vietnam and India.  My students kept improving! It took about 2 years to get them from “See Spot Run” to filling out job applications. As with all my students, they graduated themselves, as they found jobs they liked.

~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Just do it. Don’t think about it. Just do it.


~ Any  favorite materials, books, or lesson plans you would recommend to tutors?

I love history. I used a lot of American history in developing my lesson plans.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Vella!

Al Morrey (April 2014)

We just celebrated 10 years for Al Morrey as an ESL tutor at Literacy Advance Bay Area!  After retiring from a career as an Aerospace Engineer and then Program Analyst at Johnson Space Center, and upon learning about the literacy needs in the community through St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, Al dedicated some of his many talents to us! His belief about his students is that, “If you can get any single thing out of a class, well then, that is more than you came in with.” We are most grateful to Al, for his hard work, his devotion, his good humor, and most of all, his incredible steadfastness and long-term partnership with Literacy Advance.

al morrey's class

Al's students prepared a congratulatory certificate to mark his 10 years of volunteer service.


~ Where are your students from?

North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Currently I teach students from Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela, Mexico, Turkey, and Spain.

~ What motivates your students to come to ESL class?

The desire to be independent, participate in day-to-day activities, get a job, become a citizen, enjoy the opportunities available in the US, improve performance in school.

~ What inspires you?

I feel all of us should help others. There is a need. Christianity encourages sharing your talents. I have the time and ability to help. It’s fun, and it’s educational to learn about other cultures. It’s rewarding to help others and see their improvement and appreciation.

~ In your experience, is the need for ESL classes increasing or decreasing?

I think the need is increasing due to increased immigration, open borders, situations in other countries, migration of family members to the US, and opportunities in Houston.

~ What did you learn through your experience as tutor?

What I have learned and is often expressed by the students is that what is common to all cultures is the desire to be free.  From conversations in class, it is apparent that these freedoms have sometines not been afforded them in their native countries. The students generally recognize that they are experiencing freedoms in the United States and are appreciative and like being here. Also, most of the students like and enjoy interacting with people from other countries.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Al!

susan choquetteSusan Choquette (March 2014)

Susan has been involved with Literacy Advance for many, many years. She was our Volunteer Coordinator back in 2005 and moved to volunteering as a tutor in 2007. Since September 2007, Susan has been leading regular ESL classes; she also helped as a new tutor trainer and has always been a great advocate for the agency.

Currently, Susan is actively involved with the Development Department as a Literacy Advance Ambassador, helping to spread the word about literacy issues in Houston and obtain more friends to support the cause of our organization through our Story Time tours.

We are happy to celebrate the 9 years of Susan’s service to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

After moving to Houston I wanted to continue tutoring ABE, as I had done so as a volunteer in Dallas and found it very rewarding. I found Literacy Advance and was told that there was a big need for ESL tutors. I took the training and have been happily tutoring ESL ever since.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

The students! They come from all over the world, and are interesting because of their many talents and the wealth of experience they bring with them.  They are a real pleasure to get to know! In the classroom, we all learn from each other both culturally and personally.


~ What changes have you seen over the 9 years of your volunteer time?

Literacy Advance has always been a wonderful place in which to volunteer. However, the level of professionalism and expertise offered by the staff has increased tremendously, and now it is better than ever!  The organization has great leadership with extraordinary vision and is making a difference in our community.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Do it! It is fun and rewarding! Don’t hesitate because there are many opportunities to volunteer both in and out of the classroom!


~ What inspires you?

The transformation that improved language skills makes in people’s lives is awesome.  Seeing firsthand learners becoming more effective in dealing with their children’s education, or finding employment or a better job, or simply being less isolated because of improved language skills, is humbling and rewarding. Watching them grow in confidence is an unparalleled reward.


~ Any resources you would recommend to tutors?

Don’t laugh: the teacher’s guides!  Planning interesting lessons is ever so much easier when the guidance offered in these books is used. And the information is at our fingertips!

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Susan!

kristina irelandKristina Ireland (February 2014)

Kristina has been involved with Literacy Advance since February, 2005. She started by tutoring ESL classes at our main site and then became a committed tutor for our Outreach sites – where she was much needed.

Kristina also taught conversation classes and helped as a new tutor trainer. Now she is leading an Alumni group, helping our graduated students to learn more about the Houston community and practice conversation skills.

We are happy to celebrate the 9 years of Kristina’s service to Literacy Advance!


~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

My sister encouraged me to get out of my job search mode (hunkered down emailing cover letters, resumes and applying to all sorts of jobs online) for a bit and help others. She knew I needed to be out doing! A single Google search and a phone call later and I was signed up for tutor training. Looking back, I see that my initial desire to help someone learn how to read for the sake of reading has been augmented; reading is directly related to living, learning, helping, and maturing.

~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

Figuring out a variety of ways to help the learners make connections is super fun! For the beginning classes, I love helping the learners find ways to express themselves, and for the more advanced classes, it's exciting to hear their conversations. And the lesson prep is kind of like planning a party – I enjoy thinking of all the activities my learners like to do and it's fun to put it all together for them.


~ What changes have you seen over 9 years of your volunteer time?

The faces belonging to the learners, volunteers and staff have changed of course, but the vibe at Literacy Advance has really stayed steady and true to the mission. Technology, research, organizational best practices, and fundraising strategies have only improved the experience, and I believe the future looks bright!


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

We are blessed to be a blessing to others and without any ounce of an agenda, we should jump right in to help. Adult literacy learners really do need encouragement and when we're helping someone side by side, we are encouraged ourselves! What a wonderful interaction!


~ What inspires you?

Encouragement is one of the roots of inspiration and truly, the learners themselves give me so much encouragement to keep going and to try to find ways to help them.


~ Any resources you would recommend to tutors?

Dear Abby is fun, and so are board games. I love to use flashcards for speedy recall, sentence construction and arrangement, and as cues for pair interaction. The activities listed in the various textbooks have always helped me create lesson plans that are full of variety.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Kristina!

kathy stocktonKathy Stockton (January 2014)

Kathy has been involved with Literacy Advance since January, 2009. She started tutoring ESL classes in February 2009; she was then involved in teaching basic computer classes and While You’re Waiting classes. Just recently, we celebrated the 1,000th hour of Kathy's service to Literacy Advance!

~ What first brought you to Literacy Advance?
Many years ago at the public library, I met a woman who tried to recruit me to volunteer to teach ESL. I was interested, but at the time I had a full-time job that entailed lots of travel. I declined, but filed that conversation away in my memory. When I finally retired, I was looking for something to fill my time and remembered the library encounter. I sat down at my computer and googled “teaching ESL”. Up popped Literacy Advance!


~ What's the history of your goal of 1,000 hours? When and why did you set the goal for 1,000 hours?
In the beginning, I didn’t realize that Literacy Advance kept track of our volunteer hours. One day, I read in the Tutor News about another tutor celebrating 1,000 hours of service. The article said that his hours were accrued over a period of ten years. I already had accrued quite a few hours by then so I thought: I can beat that record! Consequently, I set out to do it in four. Perhaps, I am a little competitive, but it was a fun personal goal to set.

1000 hours celebrationKathy, current class members and staff in November 2013, celebrating 1,000 hours of helping others achieve English proficiency.


~ Now you’ve reached 1,000 hours, what’s next?
I am going to start working on the next 1,000 hours. I’ve already made a commitment to tutor two classes again this winter. I’m also excited about being around for the 50th anniversary celebration. Moreover, I’m really looking forward to Scrabble in the City in June. I already have my team lined up and ready.


~ What changes have you seen over 1,000 hours of your volunteer time (4 years)?
I’ve seen lots of change in the past four years. Literacy Advance is definitely growing. I guess the most important change I’ve seen is that when I began, ESL classes stopped at a lower level. Since then, Literacy Advance has added higher level classes, and is ensuring its students’ English proficiency is much stronger upon program exit.


~ What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
Obviously, to have put in 1,000 hours there are lots of aspects that I enjoy. If I had to pick just one, it would be the students. Of all the many classes, varied ethnic backgrounds, and many levels of fluency I’ve taught there is a common thread that I have seen over and over. They are all eager to learn, and as they do, I see their confidence soar. They all bond, love, and help each other, and I feel they reserve a special love just for me simply because I’m helping them. Each time, they never fail to give me twelve weeks of joy.


~ What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?
I’ve heard friends say that the biggest show-stopper for volunteering is the time constraint. Granted, three to four hours each week for twelve to sixteen weeks can seem daunting. In reality, those few hours are a small investment with a huge return that is the difference you will make in these people’s lives.


~ Funniest moment?
There are too many to count. All my classes tend to be pretty boisterous. We laugh and talk a lot. The walls at Wilcrest are pretty thin so most of the staff can attest to this. I’ve been told by staff members on several occasions how they wished they could join the fun.


~ What inspires you?
Harmony. If all nations could respect our differences, help each other, care for each other, laugh, and learn together as the students in all my Literacy Advance classes do, the world would indeed be a very peaceful place.


~ Any resources you would recommend to tutors?
The resource room at Literacy Advance is great. If I ask Anna, she can usually direct me to exactly what I need. I also rely a lot on the internet for games, quizzes, and listening exercises. I use trial and error. If it works well, I’ll save it, refine it, and use it again in another class. After four years, I have some really good lessons on hand, but I still like to browse and see what else is out there.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Kathy!

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