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2016 Volunteer Spotlights

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

james englandJames England

James started volunteering two years ago, but he didn’t think it would be a long-term interest. He was newly retired and was intrigued, but he had never tried anything like helping an adult learn to read and acquire basic education skills.

While progressing through the reading strategies in the Voyager curriculum, James discovered that he and the learner he worked with one day a week shared a common interest: They enjoyed the rich cultural history that makes our city so great. James is a rare type of person – he is a native Houstonian! So he incorporated readings about heroic and often-forgotten historical figures who shaped and are pivotal to Houston, Black History, and America in general.

They started with stories found in readers in our Resource Room, and quickly realized they needed more, so they made a field trip to the library. With newly issued library card in hand and James at his side, the learner compiled an impressive collection of biographies. In August, he presented a summary of his readings to the staff!

When James began tutoring a second learner, one of their first lessons included a field trip to get a library card and pick out a book. What a proud moment! Now, the learner beams with confidence, especially when they make regular trips to the library.

James humbly downplays his role; he says finding something that’s interesting for new readers makes learning easier, and success more fun. James is more energized than ever, too! He says, “I love it! I love to see the light come on!”

We love how James illuminates the path to literacy!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I heard about you from T.V. and newspapers for years, and I wanted to give back.

What inspires you most about volunteering?

Helping other people. Inspiring other people makes you feel good. 

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I like the unpredictability of it. You never know on any given day how someone will react to what you prepared. For example, one of my students and I went to the library and got him a library card. He was so proud! The librarian helped us with a selection of books. You could see the light come on!

What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor?

I try to keep them interested and enthusiastic. I want them to be able to apply what they learn to what they do every day.

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

Keep an open mind. Don’t feel penned in.

What's your favorite book? 

That’s a hard question! I read a lot, and I have books everywhere! I guess my favorite is Black Firsts. It’s a book of biographies, and we’re using it in class now.

Pam Winzenburg

Pam has been passionate about literacy for many years. She volunteered in public schools assisting Katy-area kids who struggled with school, then found us in May of this year, as we were preparing to open our third location in Waller County. The timing could not have been more fortuitous for us!

Even before the office opened, Pam prepared by coming to a Story Time tour at the Wilcrest office and the Family Literacy kick-off event at Waller. She completed English as a Second Language tutor training so she could start one of the first classes at Waller.

waller class pam

The class picture above is from the last lesson of that class session. The board includes the day’s goals: “Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate!” and a thank-you note to her students for being "my first class and the most wonderful class in the world!" This exemplifies how Pam embraces tutoring with enthusiasm and humility, and, like so many of our great tutors, has a deep sense of caring and compassion to see students succeed.

Her thoughtful lesson plans incorporate the strategies laid out in the curriculum, English - No Problem!,  coupled with energizing and meaningful activities that address the life skills her students say they need to improve. She informs Literacy Advance staff about class activities and students’ needs, progress, and successes through detailed weekly journal entries. She also participates in workshops and networking events with other tutors, and she recently completed Adult Basic Education tutor training so she will soon be able to help a fluent English speaker improve his or her reading, writing, and comprehension skills. We celebrate Pam’s generosity!

Why do you volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I volunteer because I believe that literacy is so very important in so many ways. Literacy empowers us to interact with our environment and to be successful in reaching any goals we might have.  I left nursing to be with my children as they grew to adulthood, and “empty nest syndrome” had become a struggle for me. Retirement has many good points, but what I found lacking was that sense of purpose that would give meaning to my everyday existence. Working as a special education assistant, I felt that I had found a way to give my life that meaning. In retirement, volunteering and tutoring allows me to serve others, as well as to give something back.

What inspires you most about volunteering?

I am still inspired by my high school English teacher and her passion for literature, and for writing.  She put fear and trepidation in our hearts, but her high standards also inspired us to adopt the same passion and love for language.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

The joy of tutoring comes from watching the face of that student who reaches that “aha!” moment, and makes the connection that gives them that boost of pride in being successful. Realizing that a student has made a leap and goes beyond the scripted dialog is exciting, as is watching them help each other and support each other. One student said that we must all crowd in at the same table rather than split up because “we are a team.”   

What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor?

My main strategy as a tutor is to provide opportunities for success, no matter how large or small.  Activities should give way to laughter, movement, and healthy competition, as well as challenges and hard work.  I realize that strategies for lesson planning evolve as a tutor becomes more familiar with the class, but the students' desire to learn is the driving force, and their reactions to success, the reward.

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

To someone who is considering tutoring, I would say that it is truly one of the most rewarding things you could do.  Both tutor and student reap the benefits of making the connection and having the interaction. I love the challenge of learning the process by which one acquires a greater level of literacy be it in ESL or ABE. Yes, tutoring has its challenges, and sometimes struggles, especially when you are new to lesson planning. Just know that as you continue on, things do come together.  I have my own learning curve, and the help I have received from staff has been right on target. The experience of forming a bond with students and interacting with them has been more payback than I could ever have imagined. 

What is your favorite book? 

Identifying a favorite book is difficult, as I have been an avid reader since my days in the Blue Bird reading group in first grade. Reading Iberia by James Michener inspired in me a curiosity about other cultures which was to influence the course of my studies through school, and the directions I have taken and valued as an adult.  While I cannot name a favorite book, I would say that Iberia has had the most far-reaching effect on my life.

John McNeil

john and byron

John and Byron have worked together at Literacy Advance for years.

In the dozen years that John McNeil has been a volunteer tutor at Literacy Advance, what stands out the most is his unwavering patience, dedication and determination to help our students. John understands that learning and improving literacy skills is a process.

Many times, a tutor won’t see immediate improvement in the basic skills of the student, but John persists, and so do his students. He unfailingly encourages and motivates his students. He celebrates the little successes, because he knows that they lead to life’s big accomplishments. He keeps a positive and patient attitude about students’ challenges, which is exactly what they need to persist and succeed.

We profiled John in this spotlight a couple of years ago, but his unfailing commitment makes us want to once again recognize and say THANK YOU to John!

Why do you volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I love volunteering for Literacy Advance for it really delivers a feeling of accomplishment when a student makes progress.

What inspires you most about volunteering?

I am inspired by the gratitude shown by my students.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I most enjoy the wonderful friendships that I have made over the 12 years of volunteering for Literacy Advance. Far too many to name, but I love them ALL!!

What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor?

I try to always keep in mind that reading comprehension is paramount for success. No matter how well a student progresses in the mechanics of literacy, it is worthless without accurate comprehension.

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

I would encourage anyone interested in tutoring to be extremely patient as progress in ABE will be slow, halting, frustrating, and regressive at times. Rome was not built in a day; neither is gaining literacy skills.

thank you john

Marking a tutoring milestone with John in 2014: 10 years of volunteering!

What's your favorite hobby? 

My favorite hobbies are art collecting, and touring museums. In addition to the beauty of art, I find it very gratifying to possess a permanent reminder of someone else's time on this earth.

Museum exhibits allow me to travel back in time and see human life from the eyes of those contemporary to that period. I marvel at how an artisan from ancient China, or Greece, or Egypt could never have imagined how their works would be displayed in a gallery on the other side of the world, in a city that had not yet been founded, and for generations of people not yet born.

It makes me wonder where the art produced today will be displayed in 2,000 years (galleries on the moon, Mars, or even distant solar systems)?


Hugo Soto

hugo sotoHugo came to us through a computer literacy partnership with The Mexican Institute, supported by United Way THRIVE. His first role was as the instructor for a 100-hour Basic Computer Class. He did that. And he did it again. And then he led an Excel class, and then a Word class, and then an Apps class. In between, he started to volunteer his time and talents with us, in addition to doing his job as a teacher for the Mexican Institute. Oh, and he also graduated from the University of Houston, and began his business career.  Hugo currently tutors at Literacy Advance two nights each week, and teaches a 6-hour class on Saturdays. PLUS, he’s “all in” as a volunteer judge for Scrabble in the City.

Phew! It makes us tired just thinking about doing all of this, but Hugo’s energy is unabated!

Earlier this year, Hugo shared his experiences and observations with fellow educators at the 2016 Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium (2017 Symposium date and information coming soon). He actively collaborates with other Literacy Advance computer tutors and coaches to help even more students acquire this much-needed skill set. We've profiled several students (including Evelyn, Mina, and Mandana) from his classes in previous Student Success Spotlights. Now, we're happy to share insights from the man who helped them all become winners!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

Volunteering has always been important to me. When I was young, I taught guitar, to give people something to do and to look forward to. I saw how my parents struggled, and I saw what a difference one person can make. Literacy Advance students are so dedicated. I try to be the person for them that other people have been for my parents and for me.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I enjoy how I get to make a real difference. Some students are twice my age; when I see them succeed, it’s very motivating to me. I’m amazed at the impact I have on these students’ lives. Many students pull me aside or talk to me outside of class and share really personal stories. Some of them have it very hard; they have it tough at home or at work; but you would never know it. They are so grateful and appreciative. I see my own parents in them, it feels like I’m helping my parents, and that’s why I always take time to answer their specific questions or concerns. I love it here! This is the happiest part of my week.

computer class graduation

Hugo's first Literacy Advance computer class graduates after 100 hours of learning!

What surprises you the most about volunteering?

It never fails to make me laugh: when I do a beginner [computer] class, there always comes a point where I ask, “Do you have an email account?” Absolutely everyone says “Yes!” Then, when I write my email address on the board, there are always only 2 – 3 students who can use it. Every time!

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

You should always have a clear reason why you volunteer. Having a legitimate reason to give back will make the most difference.

What is your favorite book? 

I have many favorites for different reasons. Right now, my favorite is War and Peace. I finished it at the beginning of summer, and kind of feel like I’m in a small group!

Thank you so much, Hugo!

John Silak

john silak in classJohn came to the New Tutor Training eight years ago, in August, 2008. Armed with empathy and a determination to improve the lives of others in some way, John explored volunteer tutoring in a range of higher-level ESL classes, including conversation and citizenship classes, and he was one of the very first tutors to help us begin our Intensive English program.

Today, his passion is as strong as ever, and he continues to pay it forward in a big way! Motivated by the diversity and positivity of students, John just started yet another 12-week Advanced English class, and we could not be more in awe of his commitment!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I decided to volunteer because I came to this country (from Argentina) when I was very young and I can remember kind people helping us. I learned about Literacy Advance and decided tutoring ESL was a perfect way to give back. This is why I continue.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I most enjoy hearing success stories from my students, when they tell me that the English they've learned in class has helped improve their lives in some way.

What surprises you the most about volunteering?

The diversity of the students surprises me most.  When I started almost all my students were Hispanics. Now I regularly get to tutor many different nationalities from all over the world.

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

I would advise prospective volunteers to research the many opportunities that exist and pick one that seems to be the best "fit", which is what I did.

What's your favorite book? 

It’s very hard to pick a favorite book, but it's hard to think of one I enjoyed more than the Winds of War/War and Remembrance saga by Herman Wouk.


fabiolaFabiola Ornelas

This month's Volunteer Spotlight could be a Student Success Spotlight, too! Fabiola Ornelas is an art teacher in the Houston Independent School District. When she decided to pursue a degree in Social Services and realized she needed to complete 240 hours of service, she knew exactly where she wanted to spend the summer, because she had fond memories of being involved with Literacy Advance in the past. You see, years before becoming a professional teacher, even before volunteering at Family Literacy events or donating her time as an administrative volunteer here, Fabiola was an English as a Second Language student at Literacy Advance.

Now, five years later, Fabiola has completed New Tutor Training, and immediately agreed to be a replacement tutor for another volunteer who could not continue, so the students could complete their class. She substitutes for other tutors, too, and she once again volunteers at the front desk, greeting guests with a lovely level of professionalism four days a week. We are so proud of and grateful to you, Fabiola!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I first decided to volunteer years ago to improve my English and help my community. I did so by presenting at the Family Literacy Events hosted by Literacy Advance at local elementary schools. Years later I had the opportunity to come back to volunteer as a tutor, where I was able to use everything I had learned previously to help others who are in the same position I once was.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I enjoy meeting people, especially from different backgrounds. I have a very diverse class at Literacy Advance. I learn something new from them and their cultures every day.

What surprised you the most about volunteering?

The diversity of the Literacy Advance community, and the great and kind environment that I encounter every day I spend here.

fabiola in class

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking of volunteering?

I encourage everyone to try volunteering at least once. It’s very rewarding and I’m sure you would love it.

What is your favorite vacation destination? 

I love being in nature, so whenever I can go camping and be surrounded by trees, especially with my dog, I am a happy person.


georganne with class
Georganne, second from left, with the ladies from her most recent class.

Georganne Mansour

Georganne has consistently carved out time over the last six years to support Literacy Advance as a donor and an English as a Second Language tutor. She has volunteered over 600 hours, even before beginning her current ESL class!

Despite having a full calendar volunteering at other organizations throughout Houston, and managing a busy personal life, she rolls from one ESL class to another, usually with only a short break in between.

Georganne tutors students with High Intermediate English fluency, but she doesn’t rely on lessons she used in the past. She spends time nearly every week before class in the Wilcrest Resource Room, researching materials and looking for new ways to customize and supplement her lesson plans so they are as meaningful as possible for her students. Whenever she talks about tutoring, Georganne makes it clear that she is the one who is inspired by her students, but we know the feeling is mutual. Her enthusiasm, preparation, and consistency have a profound impact: Many of her students come early or stay after class to socialize, practice English, give encouragement to other learners, and to volunteer. It is a joy to see how her students gain confidence and thrive!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

For many years I wanted to help others to find the wonders of being literate – and how a new world opens up to them.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

The students themselves! Learning about all the different cultures and how alike we are in many ways.

What surprised you the most about volunteering?

How committed the students are to reaching their goals and how I am inspired by them.

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking about volunteering?

Give it your best effort and you will be repaid many times over.

What is your favorite book?

The Bible. I read it every day. It is my source of comfort and guidance.

Thank you so much, Georgann!

linda pattersonLinda Patterson

Despite already having an active Adult Basic Education class on the schedule, when she heard that another volunteer tutor was unable to fulfill her commitment to a learner who had already waited over a year for a tutor, Linda took on her fifth learner since joining Literacy Advance in October of 2013.

Under her guidance, and because of her gentle assurances and willingness to involve the learner in designing each class, Linda’s newest student blossomed with new confidence and enthusiasm.

We weren’t surprised; Linda is a lifelong teacher. She could easily rely on her experience and use only familiar materials to develop lesson plans, but one of the things that makes Linda so successful is her eagerness to embrace different approaches and customize activities to bring out the best in each of her students. Linda regularly gives feedback about her class and discusses resources with the staff. To highlight her generosity, humility, and all around heroism, we are honored to share Linda’s answers to this month’s Volunteer Spotlight.

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I have been retired from teaching for several years, and I missed it. I really enjoyed teaching basic literacy to young children, giving them a good foundation for life-long learning. But many students, for various reasons, don't get that good foundation and spend the rest of their school careers struggling to overcome that. I worked with students of all ages and ability levels, and helping them to build on their strengths while overcoming their deficits was both challenging and rewarding to me. I wanted to see if I could use the skills I developed while working with kids, to help adults who had missed out on those early learning opportunities and were never able to "catch up". 

What do you enjoy the most about volunteering?linda patterson

I've worked with five different students so far at Literacy Advance, and I have been so impressed with their motivation and willingness to work hard to improve their skills. I just feel privileged to know these people and to have the opportunity to help them achieve their dreams.

What advice do you have for someone else about volunteering?

If you're thinking about it, it's probably because you know you have something to give. Give it!  If you're unsure about your abilities as a tutor, there are some great resources and enrichment training opportunities at Literacy Advance. Take a lesson from these amazing students who have decided to not let self-doubt hold them back. 

What surprised you about volunteering?

I wasn't sure if I would enjoy working with adults as much as with kids, or whether I would be cut out for it. But I find that both are true.

linda pattersonWhat’s your favorite memory about reading? 

As a child I read everything I could get my hands on, from my parents' book club selections to the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table.  For me, reading was a door to experiences and knowledge I might not otherwise ever have. I also really enjoyed the humor I found in many of the books I read. I remember reading Harriet the Spy in about the fifth grade. At one point Harriet has occasion to shout "I look like an onion!", which struck me as hilarious. I couldn't stop giggling about it, to the annoyance of my sister who was trying to sleep in the twin bed next to mine. I don't know why I still remember that. Maybe I need to read Harriet the Spy again!


Gabriela Banzer

front desk volunteers
Gaby (standing) with some of the other front desk volunteers (left to right: Adriana, Liu, and Maira) - it's rare to get them all together!

Gabriela (Gaby) Banzer started volunteering in the Wilcrest office in November of 2015. Although she says her reasons for volunteering are selfish, we couldn’t ask for a more generous volunteer!

In her first email to us, Gaby said “Please let me know how I can be helpful to you.” To describe Gaby as helpful is an understatement! After completing a short training session, she was eager to start that every same day, taking phone calls and greeting everyone with a cheery “Hello!”, and she has not slowed down since. She has already volunteered more than 100 hours!

Gaby often takes three or more shifts a week, helping us cover hard-to-fill spots on evenings and weekends at the front desk, where she makes calls to students about class schedules, helps us prepare materials for Family Literacy events, and takes on any task we ask of her. She also fills in when other volunteers can’t come, and makes sure everything runs smoothly in the front office during staff meetings.

Gaby isn’t just the first friendly voice or smiling face visitors often see, she now also leads new student registration sessions. What’s more? After getting the happy news that she and her husband are expecting their first child this summer, Gaby told us “I’m going to come here until the very last minute!” Considering Gaby’s endless energy and beautiful spirit, we have no doubt!

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

Because I had free time, and I wanted to do something helpful and meaningful. Then, because it helps me with my English.

What do you like most about volunteering?

Here, I like that it’s a happy environment with friendly staff and friendly students and tutors. This is my first volunteering experience.

What advice do you have for someone else about volunteering?

If you have the time to do it and you feel like doing it, it’s a great way to spend your time. Helping others always makes you feel good.

What inspires you about volunteering?

Low literacy. In Bolivia, we still have thousands of people who don’t know how to read and write, and we still have a lot of people who don’t know English, with English being the most spoken language in the world. Literacy is the first step to being whatever you want to be.

What is your favorite book?

El Principito (The Little Prince), because it changes every time I read it, and it grows with you. Recently I bought it to give it to my husband, but now he is reading How to Be a Dad.

Congratulations Gaby! And Thank You!!

Alina Marshevskaya

alina with trophyAlina came to us to learn English, in January 2013. In just over a year, she became quite fluent. To continue developing her new language skills, she started a trend as the first in a wave of recent student volunteers, helping with New Student Registrations, translating documents, and being an enthusiastic participant at our Family Literacy events at local schools.

Now, as an alumnus, she still seems to find new ways to give back; she helps organize alumni and volunteer socials, makes sure we’re prepared for our annual Around the World celebration, and tells new supporters about us during Story Time tours and at our yearly fundraiser, the Opening Opportunities Breakfast, too. In all, Alina has volunteered 270+ hours and continues to overjoy us with her generosity every week. In fact, she is our best recruiter for new front desk volunteers!

We were honored to submit Alina’s story for the Literacy Texas 2015 Learner of the Year award, and thrilled (but not at all surprised) when she won! The photo above was taken after the award ceremony last summer, when she was presented with her trophy.

Why did you first volunteer at Literacy Advance?

Before start volunteering at Literacy Advance I was an ESL student here and our tutor advised us to do volunteering as a way to practice and improve our English. So I thought why should I go and look for something if I could stay and volunteer at Literacy Advance, the place I like and already knew.

Furthermore if I could be helpful to the organization, that provided English courses for me, then it would be a good chance to thank. It was my first volunteering experience ever and I think I made the right choice.

alina with award

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

Volunteers at Literacy Advance do what they really like to do or want to do.  There are no things you have to do. This aspect makes all volunteering process light and joyful.

I enjoy being in the atmosphere where every person has the goals, tries to learn and progress, and opens to everything new in their live independently of age, race or religion.

What surprised you the most about volunteering?

You’re never alone. There is always somebody in the office who will help you, teach you, support you, guide you, say a joke to make you laugh, so sometimes it feels like it’s not me come here to help, it’s everybody at this place helps me.

And of course, this assembly of different people and cultures from all over the world in one place is so surprising and impressing. When I see how people from different countries communicate, shake hands, hug, chat, smile, and what is the most interesting for me, understand each other, I’ve seen in my mind the picture of a perfect world on Earth where everybody can be a friends. 

alina at around the world

What advice do you have for other people who are thinking about volunteering?

Live and learn! Volunteering doesn’t consist only of helping people; for sure it is an important and main motivation. Volunteering is a huge mechanism of learning new things, sharing your experience with others, making new friends and being involved in social life by roles you’ve never could imagine.

At Family Literacy Night event, organized by Literacy Advance in one of the pre-school in Houston, I was doing crafting with children in Pre-K group, I’ve never ever could image this in my life! “The appetite comes with eating”, so once you start you will understand that volunteering is the best investment of your time and energy.

What is your favorite book?

I love to read books! This is a great way to explore the world. My favorite genre is classic literary work and especially historical romance. It’s so hard for me to pick just one book from hundreds great ones, but there is one that touched my soul and taught me different things. The book name is “Martin Eden” written by Jack London.alina at volunteer houston

From this book you will learn to follow your dreams and never give up, how to overcome difficulties in the life and stay a kind decent person and of course about disappointments and sad side of our life.  This novel shows well that education is not only about getting your diploma; it’s also about reading a lot and analyzing what you’ve read. And, by the way, since I’ve read this book in Russian, it’s a good idea to read it once again in original English language.

Thank you, Alina!

May Alsanea

may alsanaeThere are so many good things to tell you about May! This exceptional woman is compassionate, engaged, and genuinely interested in those around her.

May contacted us about volunteering while she was still outside the country, knowing that she'd want to start helping as soon as she arrived, and she's been tutoring pretty much non-stop for the last five years.

What first brought you to Literacy Advance?

My daughter first volunteered with Literacy Advance, and she encouraged me to do the same knowing my love for teaching. Since then, I have tutored consecutive ESL classes for different levels.

I am very passionate about education and its role in advancing and enriching society. The first step on this path is promoting literacy; therefore, providing access to knowledge through the ability to read, write, and speak English.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

Where do I start! I have enjoyed every minute of my almost five-year journey tutoring with Literacy Advance. The great thing about teaching adult ESL classes is that you are introduced to a wide range of aspects from different cultures and a wealth of life experiences they are usually ready to share, making it a give and take experience.may and audrey

Also, I have found it rewarding to have a good connection with my students and make their learning environment as welcoming as possible; they feel at home by sharing any daily life difficulties they encounter, and we try to solve most of them or at least make them seem less of a burden. I have also picked up some Spanish along the way. :)

What strategies do you use when you tutor a multi-level ESL class?

may at ren fairFirst, I always prepare a lesson plan suitable for the different levels I have, to ensure we utilize all the time we have in class. In spite of the challenge it presents, tutoring a multi-level class has proven useful as I get the higher-level students to assist the lower-level ones, especially when we have cultural topics to discuss.

I have found that placing them in groups or pairs works well in getting them to share the responsibility and load of the assignment. This creates interaction among students and a safe setting for them to help them overcome the fear of making mistakes when they speak. However, when it comes to reading or writing, I try to assign appropriate activities to students according to their levels.

What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Go for it! All you have to do is take the first step and you will find a specialized staff ready to take your hand and guide you through the procedure step by step to bring out the best in you. You will be surprised at your potential.

Teaching adult ESL can be fun, as well. There are workshops for hands-on activities to exchange ideas with other tutors on how to engage students in class. Personally, I have learned so much from them. 

You can also visit other tutors' classes and learn from their diverse teaching methods. Moreover, the resource room and the Literacy Advance website both provide an abundance of materials to assist tutors with their task.

may's family's food


liu ganLiu Gan

Although she earned a Master of Arts in Education from a major US university, and she taught children and college-age students before coming to Literacy Advance, Liu was a little nervous about tutoring adults in our English as a Second Language (ESL) program. So she reached out to volunteer in other ways and very quickly became enchanted with our students.

If you’ve been to the Wilcrest office lately, you’ve probably spotted Liu. With quiet enthusiasm, she accumulated over 250 volunteer hours in just three months! Her list of regular activities is long: Liu greets guests, answers calls, and helps students, visitors, and other volunteers at the front desk. She fills in as a substitute tutor, assists with Alumni and Volunteer Socials, helps to organize the Programs office, and keeps student records accurate and up to date. Her big heart can’t be contained: Liu even represented us throughout Houston, at Family Literacy Nights and at the Volunteer Houston Fair, and she now also tutors an ESL class twice a week.

Why do you volunteer at Literacy Advance?

At first, it was because I needed to complete volunteer hours for my study. Then I found out that I really like this place and I am so happy to come back every week. Now it’s an enjoyable time composing my everyday life.

What inspires you?

I’ve met some people who helped me in many ways without even asking for thanks. Their help and kindness inspires me.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering?

In the classroom, helping my students to express themselves more clearly, helping them to pronounce new words, and knowing that they are getting better a little by a little always makes me happy.

What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?

Come and welcome! You will definitely love this place. Literacy Advance is the perfect place to volunteer with. The staff are very friendly and helpful, other volunteers are agreeable, and don’t be nervous if you are a first-time tutor, your students will calm you down. ^_^

Please share an anecdote about your volunteer experience. 

Last November, I participated in a Family Literacy event at Herrera Elementary School. I really loved it! I read a book about animals and the sounds they make to first and second graders. They loved it and gave me lovely feedback. What’s more, we got to visit the petting zoo at that school. It was wonderful!



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