Archive for the ‘Adult Literacy’ Category

AmeriCorps Members 2013-2014

AmeriCorps Members 2013-2014

Every third Monday in January, we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and as AmeriCorps members we participate in the national day of service event held in honor of MLK. AmeriCorps members are committed to service, so this day is an extension of our mission. We step outside of our service commitment and help other charitable organizations whose mission is to change lives in their communities. This year, we had the privilege of working with the Reston Association, focusing our efforts on organizing the multitude of toys, games, and electronics donated to The Closet.

All eight AmeriCorps members from Loudoun Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, and BEACON for Adult Literacy came out to give a helping hand.  As the day began, we were first introduced to the founder of the city of Reston, Robert E. Simon. After a motivational speech by Simon, we were set to begin work organizing toys and games. Carrie and Renato began organizing and pricing stuffed animals, Xavier and Stephen made sure all the electronic games were operating correctly, and Tristan, Candace, Joe, and Shani organized the many pieces of puzzles and board games to be priced and sold.

We were able to learn a lot more about The Closet and how their organization plays a major role in the community. Founded in 1974 as a way to assist low-income families by supplying quality used clothing at affordable prices, The Closet has expanded and reaches communities in Herndon, western Fairfax County, and eastern Loudoun. To learn more about The Closet, please click here.

It was great to see the incredible amount of donations and it was even better to be a part of something that has such a direct effect on the community at large. Every volunteer worked without break, determined to organize and price as many items as possible. It was such a great experience to meet others who share the commitment to volunteerism.

Although our year of service ends in August, we will take this experience and continue volunteering our services at future MLK National Day of Service events.

Carrie Robinson

AmeriCorps Member 2013-2014

Loudoun Literacy Council


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loudoun gifts for good flyer 2013-page-0

The Loudoun Literacy Council has been selected to be a part of this year’s Loudoun Gifts for Good event. This holiday event will be a part of Leesburg’s First Friday Event on Friday, December 6th from 6PM-9PM at the Carter Braxton Preferred Properties in downtown Leesburg. Loudoun Gifts for Good mission is “To provide our community with a meaningful alternative for year round gift giving – one which celebrates personal charity in support of nonprofits that strengthen our community and promote the common good.”  We are so thrilled to be a part of this wonderful event!

Since 1980, Loudoun Literacy Council has been giving the gift of literacy to members of the community.  We have helped more than 4,000 adults and young people improve their literacy skills through programs supported by the dedication of over 800 trained volunteers.  Your support will help us continue to strengthen our community. You can support Loudoun Literacy by giving a gift of a ‘Baby Book Bundle’ for an at-risk new mother ($10), new books for 5 ‘Birthday Packs’ for children residing in homeless shelters ($25), an entire ESOL class for a Loudoun County adult ($50), supplies for four Head Start students with a school year’s worth of book packs including books for their very own personal library ($100).


We hope that you share the spirit of the holiday season with Loudoun Literacy’s community. To learn more about “Loudoun’s Gift for Good” head to www.loudoungiftsforgood.org!

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Teaching adult ESOL and GED learners never gets old! There are always new challenges and major accomplishments made both as a teacher and as a student in the classroom. Read below to read more about AmeriCorps members, Carrie and Stephen, experiences in the classroom for LLC’s fall 2013 term:

Carrie’s Reflections: 

I have had the great opportunity to work with many adult ESOL learners in my experience as a teacher, but this year I now have the new opportunity to work with even more learners in an intermediate classroom! This term I taught over 20 learners at Guilford Elementary School and Cascades Library. The eight-week session went by hurriedly, as the learners learned about describing people using descriptive adjectives, identifying places in their community, and setting personal, work, and educational goals. Teaching intermediate level learners allows for instruction to delve a little deeper. Although the learning skill, speaking, was dominant in the classroom, the learning skills, reading and writing, played a large role.

Because intermediate learners know more of the English language, I was able to adapt my lessons to include more writing and reading comprehension activities. For homework each night, I had my students write a journal entry on the writing prompt of the day. The topics for the writing prompts always centered on whatever topic we were discussing that night in class. This activity allowed for learners to develop their writing skills and incorporate different grammar skills learned throughout the class. The journal entries also allowed me and my teacher assistant, Erin, the opportunity to learn a little more about our students. One writing prompt, for example, explored the personal, work, and/or educational goals they had for themselves. It was gratifying looking to see what my students wrote. They had everything from helping their children graduate high school and attend college to starting their own business. It was yet another example of the determination that my students possess.

One of the best moments of my experience teaching this fall was when we went over what some of the students detailed in their journal. The topic was “Why do I want to study English?” This seemingly simple topic transformed into a half hour discussion amongst my students about their goals to better their English skills and some of the struggles and triumphs throughout their English learning journey. It was great to see such dynamism in the classroom as the students were relating to one another while speaking the English language.

Of course the success in the classroom for the fall term was not without the hard work of my teacher assistant, Erin. Erin has the ability to work so well with the students and to form a trusting relationship with them. Her knowledge of the not-so-easy English language is quite impressive. I often had her go over the grammar points during the lesson! It has been my pleasure having her as my aide for the past two class terms and I’m excited for her to be entering the class as a lead instructor for the winter 2014 term!

Teaching intermediate level learners is quite the learning experience for me and it has allowed me to stretch my creativity as an instructor. I’m excited to continue my journey as an intermediate teacher for the winter 2014 term!

Stephen’s Reflections: 

I find it almost hard to believe how much time has passed since the start of the term!  From the beginning, I was primarily focused on my beginner ESL class.  With eight students in attendance most days, it was the largest group of students I had ever worked with at once, and I had never had direct experience working with English learners.  Naturally, I was nervous coming into the class on the first day.  When I considered the way the learners must have been feeling, though, it was easy to realize my concerns were relatively minor.

In class this term, we covered ways to greet people and make introductions, completion of personal information forms, how to tell the time, months and days of the week, money, and asking for directions.  The lesson on classroom instructions was perhaps the most valuable, as it allowed us to move more easily through every later lesson.  It was remarkable to see what a difference it made when instructions such as “open the book to page 10” or “write your name on the paper” started to become clear to the class, and I hope the rest of the material made an equally noticeable difference in their lives outside the classroom.  It has been amazing to see how much progress some of the learners have made over such a short time.

It has also been a challenging and rewarding experience to work on the GED program.  Several of our students have made very impressive gains in math and science ability over the course of the term.  It has really been a joy to get to know the students and hear all their different reasons for wanting to earn their GED’s.  With upcoming changes to the test format designed to emphasize depth of knowledge and critical thinking skills, it has been a challenge to balance preparation for the new material in 2014 with coverage of strategies for the current test format.  Good luck to all of our classroom and tutored students taking the old version of the test for the last time in December!

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SUMC Beginner 8

As September winds to a close, the Adult Literacy Program staff is pleased to see the arrival of our fall 2013 term classes.  Our ESL classes now include an amazing 167 students from 33 countries and speaking 27 different native languages!  It’s exciting to see the program continue to grow in overall size and to meet students from such a diverse range of backgrounds.  Classes are now underway at ten sites across the county, including libraries, elementary schools, Douglass Community Center, and Sterling United Methodist Church.

With the start of a new academic year, my beginner class is focusing on the fundamentals of everyday conversation and classroom-related vocabulary.  Working with a full classroom of English students for the first time was a daunting task, but the teacher training program and the lesson planning resources here were tremendously helpful.  I’m greatly looking forward to working with my students on locations, types of businesses and occupations, and how to provide personal information in the coming weeks.

We would also like to extend a welcome to the thirteen new volunteers who completed our teacher/tutor training on the 14th and 21st of September.  It was great to meet some of the people who are going to be helping our program in the future, and interesting for me personally to try to absorb as much valuable teaching insight as possible from Claudia, Carrie, and Susan while also setting up materials as needed.  Congratulations to Becky, Ceil, Deborah, Keith, Laurie, Leena, Manuel, Margie, Marlene, Mary Jane, Sandra, Sherry, and Shirley for completing the training!

-Stephen Ours

AmeriCorps Member 2013-2014

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Stephen Ours 2013-2014

This month we are fortunate to introduce a new AmeriCorps member, Stephen Ours, to the LLC team for the 2013-2014 service year! Stephen will be working with the Adult Literacy Program, teaching both ESOL and GED classes. Carrie and Claudia are so excited to have him on board as we begin a new year!


Stephen Ours joined Loudoun Literacy council as an AmeriCorps member for the 2013-2014 year in September.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from George Mason University.  He has recent experience working with middle and high school students in mathematics and reading at Huntington Learning Center.  Stephen is looking forward to the opportunity to work with a different segment of the Loudoun population and hopes to help enable members of the community to effectively share information and ideas.


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Carrie’s Reflections: 

I am glad that I am able to continue my AmeriCorps service for the 2013-2014 year at Loudoun Literacy Council. These past 11 months have been an incredible learning experience for me that I refuse to let go of quite yet! My experience teaching beginner level English learners is finished. But, fortunately I will be back for another year to continue teaching intermediate and/or advanced learners and tutor students individually.

Working for a local non-profit in an area that is deemed “affluent” and learning of the socio-economic hardships and the difficultly of the language barrier of so many of my students has helped me better my perspective of the community of Loudoun County. Seeing my students in the classroom and learning of their struggles has kept me motivated in LLC’s mission to change lives through learning. The class sessions that I have taught, including the most recent summer term, has left me inspired. The students who have passed through our classroom doors are so determined to learn the language to not only better their daily life experiences but that of their friends and families, and often times, their children.

I have developed an attachment to my beginner level learners and have seen their growth since the early months of October and January to now. Their desire to keep coming back and continue their learning experience in the classroom is incredible.  Students arrive to class coming from an 8 hour work day or from caring for their children all day to sit for 2 hour sessions and learn a foreign language, makes me realize what the phrase, “hard work”, really means.

I have learned so much about developing a lesson that combines different learning styles, grammar, life skills, vocabulary, and pronunciation. I’ve learned since October, when I first entered into the classroom, that I can do this and that my students encourage with their willingness to learn. Students dedicate approximately 8 to 32 hours per session to learn the language that we so often take for granted. I have covered topics from time and money to asking and giving directions. My students have learned the complexities of basic English grammar such as the verb “to be” and “wh” questions. They have learned so much vocabulary and have practiced pronunciating words in English that are even tricky for native English speakers!

I am also truly grateful for my teacher assistants, Kathleen, Tina, Beth, Erin, and Robbie, for volunteering their time to help me in the classroom, and more importantly, help our students achieve a better grasp of the English language. Their motivation to help and see our student’s thrive is also a motivating factor for me to continue my experience in the classroom and working with our incredible Adult Literacy volunteers.

I am also grateful for my AmeriCorps team member, Susan. She has taught me what the word passion really means. Her incredible patience and her adaptability and flexibility, has definitely rubbed off on me. She is such a great team member and we were able to work so well together. My experience would not have been what it was without her. I’m sad to see her go, but I am excited for her to come back to the D.C. area in a year or so, so we can reunite!

Working with the Loudoun Literacy Council community and staff members and working as a team member in both the classroom and administratively has taught me so many lessons. This 2012-2013 AmeriCorps year was such a great post-collegiate experience for me and I encourage any recent college grad or young professional to dedicate a year or two of their lives doing national and community service. It has been the most rewarding experience that I have had so far in my life.

I cannot reiterate how excited I am to continue my service with Loudoun Literacy. To be a part of the continued positive transformation that has been developing over the past year for LLC is amazing. I cannot wait to see what’s next for the organization and for our future English Language Leaners!

You’ll hear from me again soon!

Susan’s Reflections:

With the arrival of August, my time as a beginner level ESOL teacher for Loudoun Literacy Council has come to an end.   On August 9th, I will say goodbye to Loudoun Literacy Council as an AmeriCorps Member.  Fortunately, I will be in the area until late September, so I will be able to volunteer and help with September’s registrations and volunteer training.  In October, I will start a new journey with my husband as we return to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri for a bit.

It is hard to summarize my year of experience in a few short words.  When I started my year with AmeriCorps, I was unaware of how special and touching this year would be to me.  I remember being unsure how to talk to people on the phone who spoke little English, and then being nervous on my first night of teaching.  In reflecting back, my lesson plans have improved greatly from my first term of teaching to my last term of teaching.  I have learned new techniques in the classroom, and I have worked hard to make the classroom more interactive and more focused on my specific students’ goals.  I have also noticed how much I have grown in confidence in speaking in front of others.   Most importantly, I have truly learned about the adult immigrant communities in Loudoun County and other nearby counties.  In the past, I have worked with international students at different colleges and in Vietnam, but this AmeriCorps experience led me to work directly with the local immigrant community who have everyday struggles, who are hardworking, and who are motivated to learn English in order to have a successful life for themselves and oftentimes their children in the United States.  With the new GED class program we started, I had the fortunate opportunity to hear why each student wanted to take the class.   Hearing their stories truly makes me appreciate the small things in life even more, and it makes me motivated to serve in every community that I may live in the future.

There will be certain lessons and certain stories that I will remember from my classrooms this year.  Every class had different dynamics, but each class was just as great as the one before.  Throughout this year, I had students apply and receive library cards, a student check out her first book at the library, a student open up a bank account, students get jobs, students form friendships with classmates outside of class, a student receive her Green card, and a student pass her Driver’s License test.  I am so proud of my students’ accomplishments throughout this year of teaching.   At the end of the day, despite how tedious lesson planning can sometimes be, watching my students improve their English skills and increase their confidence with each class and term has been one of the most rewarding parts of teaching ESOL.

I am thankful for my assistants, Jackie, Laura, and Radhika, who all helped me grow as a teacher and helped our students improve their English skills.  With my first exposure to volunteer management, I have truly enjoyed training new volunteers and then seeing them shine in the classrooms and in tutoring.  We could not function without our dedicated volunteers.   I will miss our volunteers though I know they will be in good hands with Claudia, Carrie, and the next AmeriCorps Member.

Last, but not least, I could not have enjoyed this year of service without the staff of Loudoun Literacy Council.  As a small staff, we have all come to know each other, and I’m thankful for the friendships that have now been formed.   I’ve been fortunate to have Claudia as a great supervisor who pushed us to acquire experience in our career field and wanting the best for us.  I also am grateful for Carrie, who brings energy and dedication, to the job every single day.   Carrie and I have spent countless hours together and brought out the best of each other.  I know the next AmeriCorps member will learn a lot from her and the rest of the staff here.

For my future plans, I hope to stay involved in the ESOL field either as a career or volunteer experience.  Teaching has been a rewarding experience, and I truly enjoy working with adults and helping them reach their fullest potential.

If you would like to continue to keep in touch, you can connect with me on LinkedIn here or email me at my personal email here.  I hope that I am not away for too long, but I will always carry this experience and all those who I came to know over this year with me wherever I go.   Thank you to all that made my year of service one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far.

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GED Spring 2013With a snap, Loudoun Literacy Council’s Spring GED class has come to a close. It seemed like only yesterday when I was waiting for the students on the first day, learning surveys in hand, determined to build the social studies and language arts portion of the class around the students’ personal strengths and needs. It immediately became clear upon the students’ arrival, however, that their strengths and interests would enhance the class far beyond any targeted teaching strategy ever could. One student, newly arrived in the United States from Pakistan, for example, expressed his interest in poetry by reciting a monologue from Hamlet. Additionally, something I was surprised by but shouldn’t have been, all of the students spoke enthusiastically of their own personal reading habits. One lady explained how she regularly read to her young daughter before bed, for example, and another young man pulled a copy of one of  Paulo Coelho’s books from his backpack and told us how his brother turned him on to the author, who he has been following ever since.

Over the semester, we were able to cover a lot of ground. In addition to reading and discussion centered around the content subjects of World History, United States History, and Economics, we spent a considerable amount of time looking at and developing the critical thinking skills that are needed not simply to do well on the GED, but also to be engaged citizens. A theme we focused on was “C.A.S.A.”, the acronym I use to refer to the comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and application skills that one should use when reading a text or looking an information-laden visual. I’ll never forget a lesson we did on Christopher Columbus during which we compared a textbook version of Columbus’s heroic discovery of America to a first-hand account written by Columbus himself, which explained how he wished to enslave the indigenous people he found in the new land. The students were able to look deeply into this history and reveal the bias that is always present in writing, even in more official sources like textbooks.They were also able to apply this history to the present by discussing their thoughts about why we celebrate Columbus today, and whether or not this is a good thing. GED Class Spring 2013

I most enjoyed working with the students on developing their writing skills. Even though we only spent a few weeks talking about and practicing paragraph writing, reading the last writing assignment the students turned in, I can state with full confidence that considerable progress was made. I was always excited to sit down and read the students’ weekly writing assignments, and was delighted to see more structured and developed paragraph writing as time went on.

Now that the course has come to a close, I am sad to see the students go, and hope that they will return for the summer term. I think of their passion, hard work, and motivation, and am left inspired. What does it take to study for the GED test while raising a family and working long hours to support them? I think of how some of the students do this with great resilience, energy, and happiness, and however cliche it is to say, my faith in the human spirit is bolstered. For this, I have the students to send my gratitude.

Written by Jerry Stewart, Adult Literacy Program Volunteer, June 2013

GED Class Spring 2013

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