Help Us Meet the Challenge Today and Provide Hope for Our Students!

October 30, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Development, Donors | Comments Off on Help Us Meet the Challenge Today and Provide Hope for Our Students!

As I’m sure you are aware during these tough economic times, the government and foundation monies that LCNV has traditionally depended upon are being shifted away from adult and family education to other programs – or disappearing altogether.

Right now, support from an individual like you is even more critical because our students still need your help, perhaps more than ever! That is why LCNV is so pleased to announce that an anonymous donor has generously offered a $20,000 dollar-for-dollar challenge grant for gifts made to LCNV by June 30, 2010!

The challenge grant will match contributions from individual contributors – not a company or foundation – who did not donate to LCNV during our last fiscal year (July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2009). If you’ve never given to LCNV before or if it’s been a little while, we can use your support now more than ever – AND you’ll double the impact of your gift!

Your gift of $25, which would provide one student with the books he/she needs for the semester, will quickly become a gift of $50 thanks to the challenge grant, and you’ll be giving two students the books they need for the semester!

If you have given in the past – thank you! The challenge grant will match increases in gifts from recent LCNV donors. We sincerely ask that you consider increasing the amount of your gift this year to increase your impact on our students.

For example, if you supported LCNV with a $100 donation last year and give $150 this year by June 30, 2010, the challenge grant will match $50 of that gift, meaning your total impact is $200 – enough to sponsor two local families in our Family Learning Program for one 10-week semester.

Please don’t delay – help us reach our goal of $20,000 – donate online right now!

– Suzie Brindle Eaton, Senior Director of Development

If you have any questions about your past gifts to LCNV, please feel free to contact me at or 703-237-0866 x 109.

Online Resources

October 29, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Teaching | 1 Comment

Are you a teacher and having trouble keeping your lessons creative?  Interested in exploring new ways to teach?  Have you noticed your students getting bored with routine?  There is hope. 

There are always people in the TESL online community who enjoy collaborating and sharing experiences.  Moreover, TESL / TESOL are rapidly growing industries and the internet serves as a fantastic medium for innovation.  Positioned in the era of YouTube, Skype, and other growing technologies, we now have a wealth of teaching tools at our disposal.  Why not put them to use?

Dave’s ESL Café is one the better known websites.  Seasoned teachers from all over the world congregate on these forums for advice, to share ideas, and to network.  This site also functions as a nexus to other TESL websites and provides ample material for students.  I recommend going here (after, of course, you’ve perused this blog first) to get you started on your quest for TESL information.  SpokenSkills, Ralph’s ESL Junction, and Kalinago, among many others, are similar to Dave’s Café and worth giving a look.

Teachers who get excited about their work have taken the blogosphere by storm (like us).  After getting your daily read from here, Nicholas’s Blog can serve you well with lesson plan ideas.  Although two years old, Joyceln’s TESL Blog features commentary on the TESL field, reviews of other TESL websites and lesson plan ideas.  Similar to Dave’s ESL Café, these blogs are also nodes for other interesting TESL blogs links. 

Finally, if your classroom location has been blessed with access to modern technology, there are a number of sites that can help you maximize that benefit.  Currently, the use of videos for visual and audio stimulation is all the rage.  There are some interesting threads on Dave’s forum that discuss the incorporation of videos and other technology in your lesson plan.  Jamie Keddie’s TEFLclips is dedicated to experimenting with videos and other visual aids in teaching English.  This site also contains over 50 lesson plans, with new ones added every week.  YouTube also provides plenty of raw material to work with.  Explaining anything from geography to how ATMs work, HowStuffWorks presents a trove of videos and information.  For listening exercises, American Rhetoric has a list of famous movie speeches, with video clips to boot.

Matt Arnold, AmeriCorps Instructor

The Moment Everything Changed

October 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Class, Student Stories, Teaching | 2 Comments

I was waiting for it, not so patiently.  The other AmeriCorps instructors were talking about it while I was left hoping for it.  I have a wonderful class full of bright students who are committed to learning English.  I enjoy them very much, but I could not ignore the fact that our class lacked a certain amount of cohesion.  They laughed when we played games, but their jokes were mostly made within their group of friends, and no one liked to be partnered with people they didn’t know.  I went into each class hoping that one of the activities I had planned would bond them together.

One night, the tone of our classroom changed.  I looked around and there was a smile on every students face.  Laughter filled the room as the game of “Guess Who” became more competitive.  My students were engaging in friendly banter as they reminded each other of the rules.  I sat back and took in the scene, and that’s when I heard it; “English only please”.  Wait a minute . . . that’s what I say, but those words had not come from my mouth.  One of my Spanish-speaking students was reminding her friends that they need to speak English in class.  Multiple students repeated those words that night.  They finally understood that not everyone in the class spoke Spanish, and in doing so, they were leaving out their classmates.  I beamed as the game brought them closer together.  The teams were working collectively to form questions and the self-appointed leaders were making sure everyone on the team got a chance to speak up.  The most reserved student in the class was laughing and eager for a turn to ask a question!  By the end of the game some of the students had tears in their eyes from laughing so hard, and the new friendships were evident as students I had not seen interact before hugged each other.  The moment I had been waiting for had finally occurred; my class was bonding.  It took a few weeks, but it came naturally and was completely worth the wait.

– Courtney Pergal, AmeriCorps Instructor

Connecting with the AmeriCorps Community!

October 27, 2009 at 1:31 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps | Comments Off on Connecting with the AmeriCorps Community!

As you may have gathered from recent posts, the other AmeriCorps members and I recently attended the AmeriCorps launch in Richmond.  Our day was filled with ceremony and workshops, creating an engaging environment for learning and socializing with other members of the AmeriCorps community.  Personally, my favorite part of the day was lunch.  Now hold on one minute before you get too excited about my chicken fajita!  While it was very tasty, the highlight of my day was getting to socialize with people from different AmeriCorps sites, particularly members from the Loudoun Literacy Council and Escuela Bolivia.  It was interesting to discuss the different aspects of our programs and the different needs we were trying to meet in our communities.  I also enjoyed bouncing classroom and lesson planning ideas off of fellow ESOL teachers.  I walked away with some great activities that turned out to be great lessons for my classes.  I am pleased that my students, in addition to myself, were able to benefit from this year’s AmeriCorps launch. 

– Erin Andrews, AmeriCorps Instructor

Disability Awareness and Inclusion

October 23, 2009 at 1:33 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Development | Comments Off on Disability Awareness and Inclusion

Last Friday at the AmeriCrops Launch, Matt and I attended the workshop “Disability Awareness and Inclusion”. We were both impressed by the presenters, Solomon Miles and Val Luther, and their presentation. The class was engaged throughout the lecture, providing poignant thoughts and personal stories.

The most fascinating part of the workshop was a discussion regarding the use of the word ‘retard’ in the 2008 film Tropic Thunder. Two short videos were shown that had disparate views. “Retard, Please”, a video clip created by the Perryboys, seemed to embrace the use of the word ‘retard’ in the movie and found the response of the NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) to Tropic Thunder oversensitive. The other recording, “Can we talk Ben Stiller?”, a statement written and read by Jill Egle, explained how the use of “hate words” such as ‘retard’ can be hurtful to many people. According to Egle, “Slow Jack”, the character played by Ben Stiller, “portrays people with disabilities in a negative light by emphasizing the fact that (they) are slow, un-coordinated, un-attractive, and unwanted.”

Though the arguments were presented in very different styles and had opposing messages, both provided valid arguments that resonated with the class. I highly recommend watching the two videos. The links are listed below.

  • “Can We Talk Ben Stiller?” by Jill Egle
  • “Retard, Please” by The Perryboys

– Minta Trivette, Americorps Instructor

Leadership and Public Speaking

October 21, 2009 at 1:55 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Development, Teaching, Training | Comments Off on Leadership and Public Speaking

Last Friday, at the “AmeriCorps Launch”, we had the opportunity to attend a workshop that focused on leadership and public speaking.  The instructor was energetic and had an abundance of knowledge and wisdom to impart on us.  We also got to hear the ideas of fellow AmeriCorps members regarding what makes a team leader successful and we shared tips on how to deal with different situations that commonly occur when working with a team.   

The most memorable part of the seminar was learning how to give an “elevator speech”.  The idea is that everyone should have a 2 minute “speech” prepared so that whenever someone asks what you do, you are able to tell them in an unforgettable way.  Our very own Matt Arnold was put on the spot and asked to tell about one of his students.  He did a fantastic job and the instructor used his story to create an “elevator speech”.  Watching her turn a simple story into a heartwarming “speech” was extremely helpful for us to grasp the concept.  Instead of just introducing yourself and stating where you work and what you do, this is a memorable way for people to get a glimpse of who you are, what you’re passionate about, and how you are working to make the world a better place. 

How to create an elevator speech:

Choose a person whose life you have impacted or are in the process of helping.  Start by describing a few of the physical features of that person to create a visual for your audience.  Talk about what kind of background that person has and where they were before you met them; then share about your relationship.  Tie it all together by explaining how what you have done in their life will impact their future and the opportunities they will have.  The entire “speech” should be 2 minutes or less, so choose rich details and descriptive words to get your point across.

– Courtney Pergal, Americorps Instructor


October 20, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps | Comments Off on Pledging.

Last Friday, October 16th, we attended the Virginia AmeriCorps “Launch Event” at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.  It was an all day affair, with opening ceremonies and training workshops.  The opening ceremony featured a number of inspirational speakers, including the members of the Governor’s Commission on Community and National Service. They offered us some historical perspectives on the advent of national service as well as advice for the future.  Each participating AmeriCorps program was called on to produce their chant or rallying cry.  Every group displayed considerable zeal and I am proud to report that the LCNV was well represented.  Virginia’s First Lady Anne Holton administered the AmeriCorps Pledge, and all of us vowed our year of service.

After the opening ceremonies, we attended various workshops that were aimed at helping us prepare for the year.  They were titled: “Disability Awareness and Inclusion”, “My AmeriCorps”, “Balancing the Responsibility of AmeriCorps with the Rest of your Life”, and “Leadership”.  The workshop leaders, who were quite entertaining, came from various walks of life; a leadership scout, a founder of a child abuse help center, and self advocates of disability among them.  Working with fellow AmeriCorps members from around the state, we grappled with the prevailing issues of community service and determined aspects of effective leadership.

The Launch afforded us the opportunity to identify with our AmeriCorps colleagues and gave us the sense of belonging to a broader picture of service.  Having learned more about our impact on the community, we returned from Richmond with the resolution “to get things done.”

-Matt Arnold, AmeriCorps Instructor


October 19, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Development, Teaching | Comments Off on Newcomers.

My class features two particularly outgoing students.  Having spent less than a month on this side of the Atlantic and just completed their first week in my class, they are newcomers to the country and to the class.  They sit next to each other everyday and seem to be quickly becoming friends.  Enforcing “English only” is never a problem with them; they hail from separate continents and different languages.

Creating a welcoming atmosphere is crucial for students, especially newcomers.  At first, this task was difficult because these two students had little in common with the rest of class.

But a game of Pictionary with basic nouns made it easy.  When students were only able to communicate through drawing pictures, hilarity ensued.  There was a mixture of serious commentary and good-natured laughter at each other’s work.  Then there was the word: “teacher”.  They relished in the opportunity to poke fun at me.  I knew it was me –the exaggerated glasses and beards were dead give-aways.  As they stole glances from each other’s work, they became increasingly daring.  The glasses were getting bolder, the beard more ridiculous.  Eventually, each group made a point to write my name in big letters next to their drawing, pointing at my name and shouting “Teacher! Look!”   At this point, some students were gasping with laughter.  Those who were previously bantered for artistic skill were then lauded for producing the most amusing images of their teacher.

Creating a good relationship with the rest of the class is the key to easy learning.  On that day, the lesson was a breeze because they were entertained.  If a student is feeling good, they will pay more attention and be more willing to speak.  For newcomers, comfort matters most.  As a team, the two aforementioned students have become some of the more outgoing personalities of the class.

This is not to say that it’s smooth sailing from here on.  Culture shock can be a trying process that creates euphoria at one point and encumbering anxiety the next.   As the differences between one’s home culture and the new culture sometimes crystallize at once, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and homesick.  I’ve learned, however, that humor provides a good cure.

– Matt Arnold, Americorps Instructor

A Few Changes.

October 16, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps | Comments Off on A Few Changes.

I moved here from Madison, Wisconsin at the beginning of September and after living in Northern Virginia for a month and a half, I am happy to report that I love it!  Most recently, I am thrilled to be here because it has not snowed yet.  For the first time in my life I did not have to grumble about the first snow fall occurring in early October.  I expect to enjoy an appropriate amount of all four seasons which will be a much welcomed change in my life.  Another big change is the amount of time it takes me to drive 5 miles; that change is not as welcome.  I heeded many warnings about the traffic here, so I was actually expecting much worse.  I have stocked my car with good music and a reliable GPS, so even though it often takes me 30 minutes to drive 5 miles, it could be worse.  In my mind, the joy I will receive from a shorter, milder winter far outweighs all of the time I have been spending in my car these days.

– Courtney Pergal, Americorps Instructor

Finding My Teaching Style

October 15, 2009 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Class, Testing | Comments Off on Finding My Teaching Style

Everyone said it would be crazy.  Everyone said it would be hectic.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them.  They were, after all, speaking from experience as AmeriCorps alumnae and previous teachers.  Yet the problems you expect to have are never the ones for which you planned, and my first day of class was no different.  Terrified of running out of material in the first hour of class, I planned numerous games and activities for my students.  However, when my 15 minute introduction activity was over in less than two minutes, I could feel my pulse rate rising.  Adrenaline kicked in shortly after that, and my first week of class is still kind of a blur.  I do remember running around, frantically writing on the board, and mediating between teams of students (because even the most reserved students can become very competitive when a bubble gum prize is at stake).

I felt exhausted and drained after my first week of classes, and I was all but twitching as I left the library.  I was relieved that I had delivered a lesson from which the students seemed to learn and enjoy.  However, I was left wondering how I was going to keep this classroom energy going all semester.  As I prepared for my second week of classes, equipped with books, lesson plan, and detailed curriculum, I was still nervous about creating and maintaining an engaging learning environment for my students.  As my students filed into the classroom, I could feel my heart beat a little harder.  Then I did something.  I did something very simple.

I sat down.

As I sat, I greeted my students.  We chatted about each other’s weekend, gabbed about our days, and discussed what we were going to do in today’s class.  These colloquial introductions relieved much of my anxiety, and I found that I was calmer and much more comfortable leading my lecture that day.  My class that day was much more of a conversation than a lecture infused with many activities.  I don’t think my student got any more or less out of this different teaching style.  They still participated in the activities and paid attention to the lecture.  However, I do feel that I was able to better observe my students’ progress, because I was not so frantically worried about having to entertain them every second.  Now, I enjoy my classes and can better meet the needs of my students.

It took me three classes to find a teaching style that worked for me, so don’t worry if you still feel a little uneasy in the classroom.  Try out a couple of different teaching methods and you’re sure to find your mojo!

– Erin Andrews, Americorps Instructor

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