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The Loudoun Literacy blog has moved to a new platform! Find us at http://loudounliteracy.blogspot.com/

There you can apply to volunteer, submit hours, plus see current LLC postings!


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After a long and fairly hectic month of intense training and on-the-job learning, our new AmeriCorps members have settled into their roles at LLC. We are so excited to introduce them!

Keelin McGill hails from Morgantown, West Virginia. She attended West Virginia University, where she received a BA in Professional Writing and Editing with a minor in Spanish. During her time at WVU she worked in the Center for Literary Computing, as well as the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, where she realized that Teaching English as a Second Language would allow her to combine everything she loved- the studies of English, Linguistics, and Spanish.

Keelin studied German, French, and Russian at a young age, but got serious about learning another language when she started studying Spanish as a Sophomore at WVU. She knows first-hand that learning a new language as an adult can be frustrating, time-consuming, and scary. She teaches a beginner level ESOL class at Douglass Community Center twice a week, and a multi-level class at Guilford Elementary. “I’m so impressed by my student’s desire to learn, and their determination to meet their goals in English. What they take from the classroom will help them build confidence to communicate in their everyday lives. That’s what makes this job so rewarding.”

Keelin is also excited to work with the fantastic people at Loudoun Literacy Council, and learn everything she can from them. Upon completion of her AmeriCorps service, she plans on returning to graduate school to study Applied Linguistics and TESOL.

Liesl Stach is a native of Northern Virginia and graduated from Roanoke College with a BA in creative writing this past May. “I’ve always loved reading and writing,” she says. “I hope to implement that same love in my students.” Her interests besides writing include singing and playing the ukulele — skills that she hopes to eventually use in her classes. Liesl teaches a beginner ESOL class at Sterling Library on Monday and Thursday evenings, as well as an ESOL class at Dominion High School on Wednesday mornings for parents of children in the Head Start program. She finds a lot of joy in teaching, “but I would be one hundred percent okay if I never had to step foot in a high school during school hours ever again,” she jokes.

Liesl first became interested in the idea of teaching ESOL during her junior year of college, when she spent three weeks in Cambodia during May 2013. “I was taking a class on travel writing,” she says, “And I was bitten by the travel bug. I wanted to travel the world and write about my journeys, like Rick Steves. So I talked to my professor and he suggested applying to teach English abroad. I figured if I wanted to do that, I should get some experience teaching ESOL in the US first. So after my year of service with AmeriCorps, I hope to go to grad school for education or TESOL or even English again, and then start traveling.”

Other than Cambodia, Liesl has also visited the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Bermuda, and the Dominican Republic.

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This August we will be saying “goodbye” to AmeriCorps members Carrie and Stephen. For the 2013-2014 service  year, Carrie and Stephen dedicated their time working directly with adult ESOL and ABE learners in Loudoun County teaching classes and tutoring one-on-one. To learn more about their experiences as AmeriCorps members at Loudoun Literacy, read below:

Carrie’s Reflections

AmeriCorps Member - Carrie 2013-2014It’s difficult to begin this post, as I’m thinking about all of the experiences that I have gained while serving as a two-time AmeriCorps member and as one of the Adult Literacy Coordinators at Loudoun Literacy. The title of this position does not accurately reflect how much I have learned and how much I have developed both personally and professionally. When I began my term in September of 2012, I did not have any teaching experience or experience working with adult English language learners. I fell into this position and grew into loving it. I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of learners with varying levels of English speaking abilities. I have learned a new, broader definition of hard work, determination, and self-assurance. Committing to two to four hours of English instruction when their schedules are already overwhelmed with the pressures of daily life is admiral. All students come from various countries and speak various languages, but they all have similar goals of attaining a certain level of English to reach a goal – whether it is to be able to understand the work their children bring home or gaining employment or a promotion or even simply having a social conversation with native English speakers. As I continue on my journey, I will always remember these students and try to momentarily step into their shoes to keep my humility intact.

Working with our adult student population was just one facet of my service. The experience of working with our Adult Literacy volunteers was one that I will take with me and one that I have learned so much from. From training to classroom and tutor observances, I have had the pleasure of getting to know and learn from our volunteers who dedicate countless hours to working with our students. I am so glad that the hard work of our volunteers was recognized by the Volunteer Loudoun this past June, as our volunteers were awarded the “2014 Outstanding Adult Volunteer Team” award!

I want to thank a few volunteers in particular who I have worked closely with throughout my two years at Loudoun Literacy. They have helped me in the classroom and have been by my side instructing our learners. All of the volunteers mentioned below have been my classroom aides and all of them have moved on to become lead teachers in one of LLC’s classrooms! THANK YOU Erin, Kathleen, Robbie, Shabnam, Song, Susan, and Tina!

Lastly, I want to thank the Loudoun Literacy and Literacy Council of Northern Virginia staff for allowing me the opportunity to take advantage of this experience. All of my supervisors have created an environment in which I was able to invest my creativity and new knowledge of adult literacy to help develop and re-structure the program so we can continue to expand our services to even more learners in the Loudoun County community. I would also like to give a “shout-out” to my AmeriCorps team member Stephen. Throughout the year we were able to learn from each other’s strengths to create a well-rounded adult literacy program.

I will forever be grateful for this experience as an AmeriCorps member and as part of the LLC team. If you wish to stay in touch, please connect with me via LinkedIn!

Stephen’s Reflections

Almost a year later, I can still remember the feeling of just getting started here at Loudoun Literacy. At first, I was overwhelmed to see the size of the student population here in Loudoun and the number of volunteers and classes under our supervision. I would like to thank Claudia and Carrie for making that time of transition into this position as smooth as possible, and all of our volunteers for being flexible, friendly, patient, and effective instructors.AmeriCorps Member - Stephen 2013-2014

Leading beginner-level ESOL classes in Cascades was an eye-opening new experience for me. Over the course of the year, I got to work with learners from 11 different countries. It was amazing to see them come together using English as their common language! I learned a lot about working with differing levels in the same classroom and adjusting my approach based on what was effective for the group on any particular lesson. Thanks to Shabnam and Jose for helping me out by working with individual students who needed to focus their attention on specific parts of the lessons!

Some of my strongest memories of the year will come from the changing nature of our GED program. In the fall, I was introduced to the old format of the test and faced with my first full classroom of GED candidates, representing a wide array of educational backgrounds and ability levels. I would especially like to thank Veronica for helping me through that first class experience. When the test changed, so did the array of learners preparing for it. It was interesting to hear all the different stories of the GED seekers and to work with them toward their goals, and I wish them all continued success in their future pursuits!

When the format of the test changed, so did the nature of the class. I was given the freedom to reshape LLC’s curriculum to align with the new content standards, allowing for a greater emphasis on algebraic reasoning and a greater emphasis on depth of knowledge. The student demographics also changed, as the GED credential started to be viewed more as a long-term goal dependent upon a series of four tests rather than a single test containing multiple subjects. I worked with the learners on building critical thinking skills and test-taking strategies, skills that will hopefully carry them through their ongoing efforts to pass the GED and assist them in their daily lives in the future.

With so many things going on for every class term, it felt like the year flew by much too quickly! Over the course of the year, I have found a new appreciation for the necessity of education in our society. I hope to move forward with a career in education to enable more students to attain personal fulfillment and professional success.  I wish our students and volunteers continued success as they move forward in the coming year!


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The winter 2014 adult ESOL and GED class session is now in it’s final week, and AmeriCorps members, Stephen and Carrie, would like to share some of their unique experiences in the classroom:

Stephen’s Reflections: 

The winter session was a great experience for me, as I was able to approach the term with the benefit of all the things I learned over the course of the fall session.  First and foremost, I would like to thank all of our lead and assistant teachers and tutors for their patience in working around all the inclement weather and schedule changes throughout the winter session.  Missed class time has the potential to be disruptive to any group of learners, and I was genuinely impressed by the way our instructors took things in stride.

In my beginner ESOL class, we worked through vocabulary and grammar related to clothing, shopping, food, and family.  This was my first time working with an ESOL teaching assistant, and Shabnam was a tremendous help in giving more focused attention to the students that needed it the most and keeping the energy level in the room high.  It was great to see the learners come so far over the course of just over two months, and I was especially impressed by their dedication in coming to class in dicey weather conditions and returning after the session was disrupted by weather-related closings.

I was thrilled to see the learners in the GED test rise to meet the challenges of the new test.  In addition to the fundamentals of science and mathematical reasoning that were carried over from the old format, we took a more in-depth look at the scientific method and extended applications of algebra.  With so much more material on the testing standards, the class had to move through the topics even more quickly than before.  Our GED-seekers found time between their jobs, families, and daily obligations to review the material on their own between classes, which truly speaks to their determination to one day obtain the GED credential.  I sincerely hope the students that choose to attempt the test in the next few weeks are able to reach their goals, and I look forward to the chance to get back into the classroom with those who return for the spring session class!


Carrie’s Reflections:

The year is half way complete! It is unbelievable how times flies instructing adult ESOL learners! For the winter 2014 session, the Adult Literacy Program decided to switch up our adult ESOL class division, creating a separate classroom for our intermediate level learners. As an organization, we thought it was best to create a low intermediate and a high intermediate classroom to properly engage our learners. I was fortunate enough to continue leading the class at the Cascades Library, focusing my energy on low intermediate instruction. The dynamic of the intermediate class shifted, and I felt, as a lead instructor, more competent in teaching my learners and I felt that my students were all at the same English learning level-therefore creating a comfortable learning environment for all.

This session, the class focused on smart shopping and food. These units proved great for using “realia” or real objects in the classroom and created more opportunities for students to delve into activities that allowed them to move around the classroom and engage with their peers in paired or group work. It was interesting to learn just how much the students already knew about the subject manner with their everyday experiences dining out with their friends or families or shopping at the grocery store or local mall. Everyone seemed to want to share their individual stories or experiences. These units also proved helpful for expanding the student’s vocabulary. Going beyond the All-Star book, I was able to develop different, more complex, vocabulary words for students to learn. As we were going over common clothing vocabulary, several students did not know words such as “cardigan” or “robe”. The seemingly ordinary words proved perplexing to my students. It was eye opening for the students to learn and discuss new words!

The class session for the winter term would not have been as successful if it was not for my dedicated teacher assistant, Song. She jumped right in to helping the students-especially the students who were struggling with a certain activity during the lessons. The ALP is so fortunate to have volunteers like Song in our classrooms!

This session, I also had the opportunity to tutor an ESOL student one-on-one. Unlike in the classroom, I able to create lessons that cater to what the student wishes to learn. My student wants to focus on preparing her resume and sharpening her interviewing skills to return to the workforce after time off caring for her son. She also wishes to learn more about American idioms—a nuance for many ESOL learners. She is very dedicated to her goals and I have been fortunate to work with her to help her achieve them.

This winter session was a dicey one – with all of the snow, but it proved to be another successful term due to the dedication of our wonderful volunteers and students! I have learned so much from my students and continue to learn new and unique techniques to adapt to the classroom and one-on-one. I’m excited about what is to come for the spring 2014 session!

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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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On July 12th, the Adult Literacy Program Staff and Loudoun Literacy Council’s Executive Director headed to BEACON for Adult Literacy in Bristow, VA to attend the 2012-2013 AmeriCorps End of Year Celebration. The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia AmeriCorps team was also in attendance to tour the beautiful grounds of the monastery, share reflections of our term of service with one another, and say our last goodbyes to fellow AmeriCorps Members and staff members.

It has been a year of new challenges, inspiration, and transformation for all of us.  At the event, we shared our motivations to teach our adult immigrant learners, not only the English language, but life skills that are pertinent to day-to-day success.  In our discussion about our year of service, a common theme of “flexibility” became present.  All of us have realized as both administrative staff and ESOL teachers that every day brought a new experience that required adaptability and innovation.  We learned that each class we taught was uniquely different and each student that we tutored had a different way of learning.  We also came to appreciate our learners for their determination to learn this challenging English language and their willingness to come to English class or a tutoring session once or twice per week.  We have learned so much from our students including understanding a new level of hard work and perseverance.

After the conclusion of this 2012-2013 service year in August, most of us will be on our separate ways, but we will always have this amazing experience of service where we grew together as a team and as individuals.  As AmeriCorps Members, we dedicated ourselves to a year of national and community service, and our service has been fulfilled teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  We are thankful for this experience, and we understand the value to always continue to serve in our local communities.

To learn more about AmeriCorps, click here.


Carrie Robinson, AmeriCorps Members 2012-2013

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Book Bundles - December 2012 NewsletterOur Family Literacy program has been partnering with MotherNet since 2008 to provide Baby Book Bundles to new and expectant at-risk mothers living in Loudoun. More specifically,  the program gives baby book bundles to new moms of babies from infancy to 2 years. These bundles contain bilingual literacy information about the importance of establishing an early reading routine from infancy. Along with the tips, we include two baby books (in Spanish, where appropriate) and a small baby item. The first week in December, we delivered our first Baby Book Bundles of the new school year. These bundles will go to 22 Spanish speaking families and 15 English speaking low-income families that are served by MotherNet.

Tanya Bosse

Family Literacy Program Director


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