Posts Tagged ‘Americorps’

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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March 10-18th is AmeriCorps Week, and for this week we wanted to let you know more about who we are and what do as AmeriCorps Members!

AmeriCorps is a national service organization that engages over 80,000 members a year. Typically, the role of AmeriCorps is to serve low-income areas of the country; devoting time and energy in programs including education, non-profits, disaster relief, affordable housing, environmental stewardship, and community development. Here in Loudoun County, there are 3 AmeriCorps Members. Two AmeriCorps Members are located at Loudoun Literacy Council working with the Adult Literacy Program (Megan Dieter and Janna Starr). The other Loudoun AmeriCorps is located at the Loudoun Habitat for Humanity.

Most AmeriCorps Members around the country devote a year of service to better their community. AmeriCorps Members are paid a humble living stipend to pay living costs, and at the end of their term they are awarded an education award to help pay off loans or go towards further education. This program is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

To look at AmeriCorps on a smaller scale: there really is no “typical day” in the life of an AmeriCorps Member. Here at LLC, we teach English to adult immigrants in the classroom and tutoring one-on-one, we coordinate with volunteers and input student data, completing various tasks both in and out of the office. We run registrations for English class, take phone calls for classes,  meet with administrators and teachers, and help run the Volunteer Training Program. We love what we do here, and we always look forward to helping our students learn more. Education empowers, and that is one of our main goals here at LLC.

AmeriCorps Member Janna works with students at Douglass Community Center

Rosa is one of my students, and she has been in my Level 1 class for the last two sessions. She works full-time but comes to class at the end of the day, bringing great enthusiasm to learn. I recently discovered that her main goal for coming to class is to develop the English skills necessary to go to NOVA. Rosa is on the path to get her Nursing Degree. She has wanted to be a nurse for years, and she is able to take affordable classes at LLC to be better prepared for the advanced classes at NOVA. I look forward to seeing her move on to the next level getting closer to her personal goal.

Also, check out this week’s publication in the  Leesburg Today about AmeriCorps in Loudoun County!

To learn more about the AmeriCorps program, go to the National Service website at www.americorps.gov

-Janna Starr

Adult Literacy Program Assistant

AmeriCorps Member


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Although spring is more commonly known as the season of new beginnings, this summer is turning out to be a time of change for us here at Loudoun Literacy Council.

At the end of June, Candace Kroehl is retiring as our Executive Director and Tanya Bittenbender, the Director of Development & Community Relations, is transitioning to take over her role. Candace has worked hard over the past three years overseeing both the Family Literacy and Adult Literacy programs, writing grants, and strengthening community partnerships all around Loudoun County. And according to an employee in the office who shall not be named, she is by far the best executive director LLC has had.

But luckily we have Tanya to take her place. Now this is just my opinion, but…I think Tanya is related to the Incredibles. Except instead of saving the world from scorned villains, she channels her multitasking energy towards changing lives through literacy. Whether it’s starting new ESL classes or organizing our annual corporate spelling bee, she continues to find ways to make the organization stronger. My words of encouragement for you, Tanya: Rock on!

Also, later this August, Harman Sidhu and I will pass the figurative literacy torch on as we finish our AmeriCorps contract and welcome the new members to the LLC team. For me, working at Loudoun Literacy Council has been a wonderful experience in that I’ve met so many interesting and extremely grateful students, worked with steadfast volunteers who give so much of their time to help our cause, and been part of a supportive and just plain fun group of coworkers. I will definitely miss the camaraderie we’ve developed. And, not to speak for Harman, but I’m totally gonna speak for her when I say she would agree.

So this summer will be full of goodbyes and hellos, but as we say in the office: you can leave LLC, but it’ll pull you right back in. I know Candace, Harman and I will be helping out in the future for Loudoun Literacy Council in some way.

And in case you haven’t noticed, another new thing to pop up here is this blog. We want to be better in touch with you all — volunteers, donors, passersby on the worldwide interweb… Welcome! Use this online space as a platform to ask questions, get resources or just get connected to people like you who are committed to making people’s lives easier and better through education.

Talk to you soon!

– Sabrina Berntsen

Americorps Member

Loudoun Literacy Council

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