Archive for July, 2011

At LLC we have many special volunteers, but today I would like to show our appreciation for one in particular who demonstrates commitment through her dependability and desire to learn.

Dawn Reynolds has been an Adult Literacy volunteer since attending instructor/tutor training in October 2010. Dawn didn’t have to wait long to start tutoring a low-beginner ESOL student. Not only has she remained with the student well past the required time, but she has shown she is committed to personal improvement by attending LLC in-services and enrolling in online courses with VALRC. Recently she also helped with summer class registration and instructing the intermediate students at our Leesburg site.

Here’s what Dawn has to say about her time with Loudoun Literacy Council:

     “When I moved to Loudoun County, my goal was to get more involved in my new community, particularly in education. When I heard about the great work that Loudoun Literacy Council was doing, I knew I wanted to be a part of the organization. I was impressed with their volunteer training program and friendly staff, and eager to get started with my first tutoring session!             

     Teaching ESOL to adult learners is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s challenging and exciting, and requires me to call on my own life experiences — especially learning a new language — to provide as much support as possible to the adults we serve. What I’ve appreciated most about LLC is that they offer many opportunities for me to learn and grow.  There are so many ways to be involved, from smaller time commitments like helping with course registration to larger ones like leading an ESOL class. I look forward to many years of continued involvement with LLC and the community.”

Thank you, Dawn for all that you do!


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Recently I was at the emergency room (don’t worry it wasn’t for me and it wasn’t life-threatening). While watching people in the waiting room, I saw a Hispanic couple with their baby. They were trying to be admitted, but the nurse came out and rather brusquely told them they needed to fill in a lot more information on the forms they turned in. She was rapidly asking about the parts on the form that were missing. “What’s her birthdate?… Month? ..Mesa?” After a couple more starts and stops of (mis)communication it turned out the issue was that the baby had a fever. At the time it was in a car seat with a blanket wrapped over the little crib. The nurse immediately implored them to remove the blanket.

The entire time I was witnessing this, I was thinking about the students we have. When we have students fill out goals for the course many check “Talk to medical staff” as one of them. Then we take that goal to class where they learn vocabulary for illnesses, how to read a medicine label, how to make a doctor’s appointment, etc. But here was a case in real life.

It reaffirmed for me the reason why we teach English. It’s no wonder that so many of our clients want to speak better with an issue as important as someone’s health. And that’s the main goal for us: teach the necessities. Survival English. So when an emergency happens in the “real world”, they have the language tools to communicate effectively.

Even the nurse’s attitude of impatience can be a teaching point. In the classroom we try to build a community; speaking practice is encouraged despite mistakes students may make. But outside the classroom we learn that there will be people who are nice and people who are not so tolerant. This is true no matter what language you speak.

— Sabrina Berntsen

Americorps Member

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