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News & Updates for April 2019

newsThis month:


A note from the CEO

President & CEO Search

martha macris

The search and hiring of a CEO is one of the most important responsibilities of a Board of Directors. MAM’s Directors are fully aware and engaged in this process.

We have established a Search Committee chaired by Jack Moore, former Chairman and CEO of Cameron International and member of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church. Members of the committee include:

  • Linda Buchman, Community Relations Officer for SBISD
  • Buz Jochetz, former MAM Board Chairman, member of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
  • Rod Keyworth, Congregation Council Representative to the Board of Directors, member Emmanuel Episcopal Church
  • James Lytal, former MAM Board Chairman, member of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Community
  • Wendy Moreland, former MAM Board Chairman, member of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church

I am serving as an ex officio member in the early-to-mid stages of the process but will recuse myself once the pool of candidates to be interviewed is selected.

The committee selected Elliot Gershenson, a nonprofit consultant here in Houston, to assist us in the search. Elliot has 3o+ years of experience as a nonprofit leader, most recently as CEO of Interfaith Ministries here in Houston. He has a vast local network and thoroughly understands the role, responsibilities, and skill sets needed to run an organization like MAM.

The position will be posted by mid-April at which time all inquiries and interests should be directed to Elliot. The posting will list the best ways to contact him. We will be sending the information out to our churches and all of our networks as well in order to reach potential candidates who may not be actively seeking employment. Some of the best leaders are already busy with their current commitments!

Please keep the committee members and MAM in your prayers as we continue through the process and I will keep you informed along the way.



Volunteer Appreciation Month

We're celebrating YOU!

thank youApril is Volunteer Appreciation Month, and volunteers, we gotta hand it to you. YOU'RE the ones who make things happen around here! For just shy of 60 hours per week, our 12 classrooms at MAM Wilcrest see learning, laughter, community, and progress.

Thanks to you, parents and grandparents can help children navigate the Houston school system with new-found confidence.

Thanks to you, newcomers to the United States can create their first American-style resume, apply for a job, and continue their career.

Thanks to you, thousands of people every year find a safe haven - a place where they can relax, where mistakes are permitted, where learning is communal, and where EVERY person is valued.

We're celebrating all MAM's amazing volunteers at our annual appreciation dinner. You should have received your invitation already; if we missed you, please take a look on the Resource Room door or talk to Colleen.


Changes to the MAM Wilcrest Team

Hello, and goodbye...

Welcome: Traveon Rogers, Transition Services Coordinator

A University of Houston alum, Traveon joins the team at MAM as Transition Services Coordinator for Literacy Advance. Most recently, Traveon lived in Mexico City, where he taught English to working adults and developed his own Spanish proficiency.

In his role as Transition Services Coordinator, Traveon will focus on the delivery of special classes, community referrals, and each learner's path towards ESL graduation.

Welcome: Teresa Mello, Office Coordinator

teresa melloWe're also very pleased to be welcoming Teresa Mello, who has been on the MAM team for a while already, most recently working with the Hurricane Harvey recovery team. As those activities have wound down, she's now joining MAM Wilcrest in the role of Office Coordinator. Help us make her feel welcome!

Goodbye: Courtney Justus

We're always overjoyed at the opportunity to support staff in their educational endeavors, and have the bittersweet news to share that this month, Courtney Justus will be transitioning out of her role as Volunteer Coordinator. We’re sad to see her go, but pleased to announce that she’s leaving in preparation to begin graduate-level studies in literature and creative writing. When you see Courtney, please wish her well!

And, if you know anyone who may be interested in joining our team, please spread the word that we are actively recruiting for a new Volunteer Coordinator. If you have any questions, please talk to Colleen.


Thank you for leading classes this semester

Spring semester has just weeks to go

We almost can’t believe it, but most of our spring classes will finish in April. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the effort you gave to students and classes! Your encouragement, instruction, and guidance helped keep adults committed to learning English and achieving their goals. We are so grateful for you!

Even more, many tutors have already signed up to begin another class in the summer semester. If we'll see you this summer – thank you! We’ve already begun enrolling students in their summer classes, but many more are still waiting. If you haven’t done so yet, there’s still time to confirm a group for the summer semester, beginning in May.

If you’re taking a break, we hope to see you back next fall - fall classes will begin August 26. Safe travels to all those leaving Houston for the summer!


MAM Wilcrest closed April 19 & April 20

Happy Easter!

Literacy Advance will be closed Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 for the Easter holiday. Please make sure your students know and don't come to class on those days.


ABE classes have successfully moved

New opportunities at CrossWalk Houston

We’re pleased to report that all ABE classes have successfully made the move to CrossWalk Houston, operating out of the Outreach Center of West Houston, where they were welcomed with open arms.

Programs at the Outreach Center are administered by CrossWalk Houston, an initiative of Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, so the administration of ABE classes has officially switched to CrossWalk staff. 

We're working with CrossWalk to schedule the first New Student Registration sessions for ABE in almost a year. Tutor training dates will be coming soon too!

Please talk to Kathryn Bauchelle or Colleen Mayer with any questions: 713.266.8777


Theme of the Month

Money & Banking

This month’s resources focus on Money & Banking.

When newcomers arrive in Houston, first steps towards getting settled in their new home often involve setting up a bank account and learning to manage U.S. money. With this month’s activities, we want students to feel comfortable and confident as they learn these skills, and others like them, to help achieve their financial goals.

ESL students at all levels may need a refresher on handling U.S. currency. For beginner-level classes, try starting out with flashcards from popular resource book Living in America to get the whole group talking and working together to learn the names and values of various currencies.

To incorporate more tactile components, you’ll find a sample checkbook and money in the back bins of the Resource Room. We often hear that students are exclusively using debit and credit cards for purchases, so your lessons can help provide valuable skills for situations when plastic payments aren’t an option.

Access to appropriate banks, as well as knowing their functions and how to use them, can be especially complicated in a new language. With LifeScenes LifeSkills, students can learn the advantages of a savings account and how to properly manage long-term funds.

By combining these exercises with the activities from Life Skills Practice, intermediate and advanced level students will feel much more informed as they learn the best questions to ask when setting up a new account. You can take the lesson a step further by empowering students to decide if a traditional bank is even the right option for them. “Banks vs. Credit Unions: What’s the Difference?” explains the variety in banking environments so students can make the best decision for themselves and their families.

Money-related decisions can be difficult, and newcomers may understandably be overwhelmed by a multitude of options (and not all of them good!). Advanced level ESL students might use the article on Payday Loans to identify dangers in the product and learn about safe alternatives (including Fig Loans, a payday lending alternative available here at MAM).

The information you provide using these, or any of our other prepared resources, will help your students feel informed and confident as they make financial decisions in the future.

The rest of the year:

Month Theme Possible lesson content
May Housing Paperwork needed to sign a lease; rights and responsibilities of tenants and homeowners
June  Jobs How to apply for jobs; interview skills; what's typical in a US-style resume 
July  Getting Ready for School  Getting kids ready to go back to school; options at school including after-school care and clubs
August Shopping & Restaurants  Houston Restaurant Weeks; loyalty clubs and benefits; online shopping risks and benefits 
September  Immigration & Citizenship  Requirements for U.S. citizenship including eligibility, paperwork, and fees
October Health    Health Literacy Month; questions to ask the doctor; advocating for your own health; open enrollment in the ACA
November Libraries   What's available at your local library? What does the library provide online? 
Theme of the Month on hiatus for December

Every month, we will feature resources and ideas that match the theme. Discovered something excellent? Let us in on your secrets! Talk to Colleen with ideas and new resources that match the theme.


Top Tutor Tips

Resources curated just for you

At the start of each class, tutors are provided with curricula to use as a framework for lessons. Our classes use English No Problem! as a central framework because they're created by experts in the adult education field, and provide a level of commonality and consistency from one class to another. Using other resources as supplementary materials also gauge progress and help students stay on track.

We also know, though, that a learner-centered approach means there’s no “one size fits all” to language instruction. The most successful classes are those that use the curriculum consistently (but not necessarily as the "main event" in every single lesson), and also supplement their curriculum with focused materials to address students’ specific goals.

All tutors are encouraged to visit the Wilcrest Resource Room during open hours to browse options related to popular topics like life skills, conversation, and job preparation (plus much, much more). Please ask staff if we can direct you to any of our favorite options.

You can also browse options from home, anytime! But a word of caution: There are so many lesson planning resources available online that it can be difficult to assess the quality of an activity, and all lessons and materials are NOT created equal. We’ve done the work for you and made selected materials available on our website.

Here, you can browse general ESL activities or drill down to more specific goals. We talk about the online resources during Tutor Training, but if it’s been some time since you’ve taken a look at the links, now is a great time to refresh!

If you have any questions or comments about the strategies suggested here, contact Courtney at, or join our powerful online community Literacy Advance Tutor Support Group.


Training opportunities

Many ways to keep on learning

We know that there's strength (and joy!) in numbers, and we commit to supporting our volunteers in multiple ways. One of those is providing regular opportunities for continued learning.

Wednesday, April 17
Presentation: Practical Tools to Help Tutors Take Advantage of Varied Abilities in the Adult Classroom

This presentation will be by Jayme Adelson-Goldstein, ESL teacher-trainer and co-author of the Oxford Picture Dictionary series – a favorite amongst MAM Literacy Advance tutors! 

Saturday, April 27
Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium

The fourth annual event is now open!
Register online here, and check out the schedule here.

This year, the symposium will be presented by Adult Reading Center, in conjunction with Literacy Texas.


Bad weather? Not sure if class is on?

Step One: Check Facebook

We know that weather in Houston can be unpredictable. Sometimes we don't have a lot of notice that we'll need to close the office and cancel classes, and we don't always have time to call everyone. 

Facebook is a quick and easy way to update lots of people at once, so the Literacy Advance Facebook page always has the most up-to-date information about closings in cases of bad weather.

If you think there's a chance we might be closed, please check the page rather than calling the office. Look for this image, and click on it for the latest update:

You can check the Facebook page even if you don't have a Facebook account, so please bookmark the link above. And remind your students to do the same!

Of course, if the bad weather is local to your neighborhood, and you're the one who needs to cancel class because you're concerned about driving, please do call us and let us know.


Student Success Spotlights

Don't miss our Student Success Spotlights!

You helped make them possible.


Calendar Highlights

What's ahead? Mark your calendar!

calendarWe always want you to be up to date! So highlights of the Literacy Advance calendar are summarized below.

A more complete calendar can always be found online here, or you can check our Facebook Events page

Spring Semester 2019:
Monday, January 14 - Friday, May 24

Closed for Easter:
Friday, April 19 & Saturday, April 20

Annual Gulf Coast Literacy Symposium
Saturday, April 27

Spring Graduation
Tuesday, May 28 (TBC)

Around the World
(11th annual student and volunteer celebration)
Friday, November 8

Last day of classes for 2019
Saturday, December 21


Find more information just for volunteers:

And finally - don't miss the Volunteer Spotlight!

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