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Volunteer Spotlight

ann henry + studentAnn Henry

Ann (at left in picture) is a dedicated English as a Second Language volunteer tutor, who thrives on helping adults across the learner continuum. She has tutored since 2012.

Back then, she needed some flexibility and wasn’t able to commit to a 12- or 16-week class, so she started tutoring a shorter conversation class at our Wilcrest location. She was hooked!

When her career changed and she was able to volunteer more regularly, Ann discovered how much she enjoyed helping beginners, at one of our key partner sites at IEDA Relief. She substitutes for other tutors throughout our network of partner sites, and this year, she helped us start classes at Shearn Elementary School.

Most recently, Ann put her creative energies to use by helping to lead a pen pal project, where students from classes at different locations write to buddies in other classes, to improve their writing fluency and to make friends. pen pal partyThey learned everything from how to address an envelope, to English grammar and punctuation, and even got a chance to write a complaint letter. (What an important task!) The project culminated with a party (pic at right) so the pals could meet each other face-to-face and celebrate together. 

Maybe Ann has such an affinity for adults who come to Literacy Advance to learn because she’s a lifelong learner herself! She continually looks for opportunities to learn more about adult education and connect with other tutors and educators. She participated in Gulf Coast Literacy Symposiums for the last two years. She plays a serious game of Scrabble at our annual Scrabble in the City fundraiser! She attends Tutor Enrichment Workshops at Literacy Advance, and explores ways to increase her personal knowledge and understanding simply because she thinks it will make her a better tutor.

Well, we think Ann is pretty great already!

Why do you volunteer at Literacy Advance?

I love seeing everything through the students’ eyes. Many students are very new to the U.S. and they are not just learning English. shearn elementaryThey are learning to drive, and use a computer, and talk to their children’s teachers. They experience many of the things we take for granted, and are eager to learn English and live in our culture. They support each other and really become their own new community. 

What inspires you most about volunteering?

I’m inspired by the sense of community students build. In the classroom, people who start out just wanting to learn English become a source of support for each other and make connections.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

I love seeing how the students come together. My friends make fun of me, because every time I have a class, I say “This is the best class!” Then when I start the next class, I say “No, this is the best class!” It’s funny, and it’s selfish – I love it and I get a lot out of it!

What strategies do you keep in mind when you tutor?

I try to think about what the students are trying to accomplish, what skills they need, and who they want to communicate with. And I try to find ways to build their confidence. If it is a safe place where they can practice asking and answering questions, it’s easier when they have to do it for real.

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

Give it a try! When I moved from a conversation class to a regular 12-week class, I wondered how I was going to do it. I didn’t have a teaching background, and I thought it would be hard to fill two hours of people’s time. But once you start interacting with the students, it becomes clear. Don’t be intimidated!

What's your favorite book? 

I’m hard pressed to name just one book. I love reading stories of people who go to another country and live somewhere else for a year, just to experience the culture.

ann and team at scrabble in the cityAnn and friends team up for Scrabble in the City 2017

Thank you so much, Ann!

Don't forget our archives of previous spotlights!

Find the 2016 archive here.

Find the 2015 archive here.

Find the 2014 archive here.

Find the 2013 archive here.

Find the 2012 archive here.

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