April 2011 Volunteer Spotlight: Chris WollenbergApril 14, 2011 at 5:00 AM | Posted in Volunteers | 2 Comments
“What do these words mean?” Pascual asked Chris. It looked like Pascual had jotted the vocabulary words down during a meal at a restaurant, and was curious enough about the words’ meanings to ask his English teacher about them. So goes a typical conversation class with Chris. “Some days, I don’t even get to any part of the lesson that I had planned, because the students have so many questions. It’s okay, though, because they get so much out of it.”
The class meets at the James Lee Community Center every Tuesday and Thursday from 12 to 1 pm, after the Learning Centers classes wrap up for the day. Chris actually started his volunteer stint at the Literacy Council as a class aide (and he is still one). But he also saw the need for an informal, walk-in conversation class at James Lee. He realized that potential students were just hanging out at the community center anyway – so why not offer a class they could attend for free?
Chris has done a fabulous job with the class. He gets an average of 10-15 people each time, and they’re not necessarily students already enrolled in Learning Centers. Many of them have an advanced knowledge of English, and find value in the conversation practice. Some are people who missed the initial Learning Centers enrollment period, but want to start practicing before the next session begins.
It’s no surprise that Chris is such a natural at teaching – he taught for 34 years in public schools (a combination of English, ESL, reading, and history – all grade levels). After spending a huge portion of his life as a teacher, what made him want to come back to volunteer to teach after retirement, when he could do so many other things? “I love teaching,” he replies matter of factly. “I just love helping people. The many thanks that you get from your students – they are all so grateful. That is easily the most rewarding part of this volunteer job.” When he’s not in front of a classroom, Chris is an avid traveler, gardener, and runner.
After talking with him for just a minute, you immediately feel at ease. Chris is just so affable and laid-back – and you can tell that he loves what he does. He gets it! We are fortunate to have him!