A note from Nancy

September 30, 2010 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Community Partners, Donors, Volunteers | Comments Off on A note from Nancy
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On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, I attended Booz Allen Hamilton’s Nonprofit Conference on Fundraising Development as a member of LCNV’s Board of Directors, along with Suzie Eaton, LCNV’s Senior Director of Development.  

The topics presented on fundraising were timely and the speakers offered workable, real life suggestions drawn from their experiences in the nonprofit sphere. I am eager to implement many of these ideas as tools in my role as a member of LCNV’s Fund Development Committee as we proactively restructure our fundraising strategy.  Ultimately, the information presented will make me a more effective spokesperson for LCNV’s mission of increasing literacy in Northern Virginia. For Suzie, the biggest take away from the session were tips on how to create a culture of fundraising for the organization that involves not only development staff, but also Board members, volunteers, students and the entire staff. It was also a chance to reconnect with colleagues and LCNV partners, such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Loudoun Literacy Council, Reston Interfaith, Helping Children Worldwide, Leadership Fairfax and Arts Council of Fairfax County. 

We both highly recommend this speaker series to anyone involved in working with or volunteering for nonprofits. Please feel free to contact Suzie Eaton or me to find out how to receive information about this speaker series. Kudos to our host, Booz Allen Hamilton, and its partners for supporting this terrific program!

Nancy Needs, LCNV Board of Directors


September 30, 2010 at 11:18 PM | Posted in Calendar, Community, Media, Staff | 3 Comments
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My most recent (and first) blog post addressed the rewards and challenges of working remotely for the Literacy Council, which I’ve been doing since late 2007.  Reading that post again, I realize that my interaction with my coworkers has changed since writing it.  For the past several months we’ve been teleconferencing, using Skype, for our meetings.  I sit in front of my computer, which has a built-in webcam, in San Francisco, while others in Falls Church sit in front of a similarly equipped computer.  They hear and see me, while I hear and see them.  Before using Skype, we conducted meetings over conference calls.  Now, teleconferencing has brought video into the mix.  It might seem a small difference, but it really adds a sense of being connected.  They can see the paintings hanging on the wall behind me, the red couch below it, and the sunlight (when it isn’t foggy) shining through the window to my left; and I get treated to a glimpse of what it’s like to back in the office.  When another coworker walks through the webcam’s line of sight, I often blurt out “Hey there,” hoping to indulge in a few moments of small talk.  It’s a nice little treat, and it bolsters my enthusiasm for what I do.

But for me, nothing can beat actually being there, so next month (in October), I’ll be flying out to Virginia to spend two or three days back in the Falls Church office.  Strange as it may seem, I’ve never met my new boss, our Senior Director of Development, Suzie Eaton, though I interact with her nearly every day via IM and emails, or our new Development Assistant, Stacy Nall.  Plus we’ve just welcomed a new cohort of AmeriCorps members to the staff, so I’ll be able to meet them, too.  Working remotely has been good for both me and the Literacy Council, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in person again to remind me of what a great organization this is and how lucky I am still to be working for it.

Matt Kollmeyer, Grants and Publications Specialist

Thank you to the Library of Congress for the National Book Festival

September 27, 2010 at 10:29 PM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, Community, Family Learning, Media | Comments Off on Thank you to the Library of Congress for the National Book Festival

Celebrating 10 years in the Nation’s Capital, the National Book Festival is one of the greatest gifts to literacy and book lovers. This past Saturday, the last Saturday in September, I spent all day on the National Mall at the National Book Festival, as I have every year for the past 10 years.  The event never disappoints. What an amazing opportunity to meet and learn from nearly 100 authors who are delighted to present to the audience a window into their lives, their inspirations for characters and themes, their writing process, and entertain questions from the audience.  Giant circus tents cover the eastern end of the mall, each labeled by genre: fiction/mystery, children, teens, poetry/prose, history/biography. . . . .so you can pick and chose and travel from tent to tent all day long listening to the authors of your choice.  This year I heard, and befriended, Julia Glass, Ken Follet, Olga Grushin, Rosemary Wells, Jeff Smith, Michele Norris, and Anchee Min.  Each presentation was different, informative, and somehow made me feel like I was in a personal setting having tea with a well-known author (when, in fact, there were probably at least 1000 book lovers sharing the space in the crowded tent).

Equally impressive is the number of people who attend the free, family event focused on reading, learning and books. Happy children are everywhere, and the first in line to ask their favorite author questions about the characters they love in the books they read.  It doesn’t get any better than that for inspiring young authors, and encouraging new readers.  Every tent is filled with people from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm.  It is an incredible gathering of passionate readers.

My favorite author of the day, Anchee Min, opened her presentation by saying, “Thank you, America!  I can’t believe I am really here speaking in English and people have come to hear me because they have read my story.”  I say, thank you to Anchee Min for writing such beautiful stories and for taking the time to meet with all of us.  As for America, thank you to the Library of Congress for using our tax dollars for an event that is entertaining, enriching, educational and an extraordinary gift to all who love to read.

Patricia Donnelly, Executive Director

Feeling Ambitious

September 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Announcements, Calendar, Community, Volunteers | Comments Off on Feeling Ambitious
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My, oh, my. It has been a very busy past couple of months in the Volunteers Department (which is a department of one – MOI!). By the numbers:

39 people signed up for the ESOL tutor trainings that started in August (out of a possible 40 spots). 35 showed up on the first day. Out of those people, 31 attended the required 2 out of 3 sessions, meaning that there are that many new potential matches in the ESOL tutoring program. That’s a great number!

28 people signed up for the Basic Literacy trainings that started earlier in September (out of a possible 30 spots). 23 showed up on the first day. The second day of the training is this Saturday, so it is still too early to determine how many new potential matches there will be in the Basic Literacy tutoring program. But my hopes are high – crossing my fingers for a perfect 23 matches!

11 people signed up for the Student Assessment Specialist training on September 11th10 people made it to and completed the training. I know several new volunteers have already started testing in full force during our busy registrations, and we are so grateful!

And last but not least – so far, we have recruited and placed 17 new people in the Learning Centers and Family Learning classroom programs. The same number of people were able to attend the one-day classroom training on Saturday, September 18th. It’s always fun to see the new blood in the classroom programs!

Many people sign up to volunteer in the fall because it is a time for fresh starts – the lazy days of summer are over, and for most, it is a wonderful time to pursue something new. The momentum is obviously there – let’s keep it going! There are new tutor trainings in October and November. Sign up today! Please e-mail me at volunteers@lcnv.org if you’re interested in hearing more.

-Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

Shining a Light on Virginia’s Adult Literacy Crisis (via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia)

September 24, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Posted in Advocacy, Community, News, Teaching, Testing, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Shining a Light on Virginia’s Adult Literacy Crisis (via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia)

Just found this great blog today! We encourage you to follow its articles!

Shining a Light on Virginia's Adult Literacy Crisis Virginia Issues and Answers (www.via.vt.edu), a public policy journal published by Virginia Tech, has just released its summer issue, focusing on literacy. The feature story, Virginia’s Not-So-Hidden Secret: The Adult Literacy Crisis, was written by Resource Center staff members Victoire Gerkens Sanborn and Hillary Major. The article highlights national and state statistics which reveal that more than 2 million adults in Virginia struggle with ba … Read More

via Facts and Statistics for Adult Education and Literacy in Virginia

Welcome to Shelbyville

September 24, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Posted in Advocacy, Community, Film, Media | Comments Off on Welcome to Shelbyville
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On September 15th, I went to an early screening of the film documentary “Welcome to Shelbyville” at the Brookings Institution, hosted by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).  The documentary is the tale of a small town in Tennessee grappling with growing pains as their community becomes more and more diverse.  When the film is released on PBS in the spring of 2011, I highly recommend watching it.

I find that living in the already widely diverse metropolitan DC area, it is easy to forget that immigrants are a new occurrence for many smaller communities throughout the United States.  As I watched the film, I couldn’t help feeling empathy for the new immigrants in Shelbyville and I wished there was more I could do to make them feel welcome.  There were several scenes in the film that took place in adult ESOL classrooms and it reminded me very much of the classes offered here at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and it got me thinking …

While our classes start up this week and next, what do you do to make our students feel welcome?  How do you showcase diversity as a positive feature in our communities?  Please share your thoughts in the comments field below.

-Erin Finn, Director of Classrom Programs

New Teachers

September 23, 2010 at 11:13 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community Partners, Family Learning, Teaching, Volunteers | 1 Comment

All the new Americorps members will begin teaching their classes either this week or the next. I am co-teaching an FLP class this year at Connections for Hope with another Americorps member and the class beginning this morning, making my co-teacher and me the first of our group to start teaching.

We only began working at LCNV about three weeks ago, and up until this point we’ve been through a lot of trainings and registrations, but tomorrow we put all of the theory we’ve absorbed into practice. I think that I speak for our entire group when I say that our first teaching experiences are coming with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I remember various LCNV staff members reiterating the idea that for many of our students, coming to English class is an opportunity that does not come without sacrifices, be they time, money, or otherwise. Many of our students work multiple jobs or spend long hours taking care of their children prior to coming to English class, and for people who spend their days working in service-type jobs, this is their time to come and be served by us. As I make my last-minute preparations for my first class tomorrow morning when I get to truly begin my Americorps year of service, I am reminded and humbled by the importance of the work ahead of me for this upcoming year! Wish us luck!

-Alicia Nieves, AmeriCorps Volunteer

Tutor Panel Feedback

September 22, 2010 at 2:43 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tutor Panel Feedback

Last Wednesday, we hosted an in-service here at the Council for our community of tutors. It led off with brief, informal presentations by a panel of ESOL and Basic tutors . These presentations were on a variety of topics, such as integrating field trips into instruction, incorporating innovative props into lessons, and applying the lessons learned from tutoring one student to working with a subsequent one. The presentations were followed by wide-ranging discussions in which many of the workshop attendees as well as the panel members participated.

The discussion revealed themes that affect both the Basic and ESOL tutoring programs. These included the challenges involved in teaching English skills to students who have few opportunities to practice them outside of class and the importance of structuring instruction in ways that enable learners to experience frequent small successes. The extent to which tutors should become involved in their students lives was another common concern.

We try to provide an opportunity for experienced tutors to share their resources and make connections with the growing number of tutors in our program with these sorts of panels at least once or twice a year, so don’t worry if you missed out.  I learned a lot from the in-service and came away with lots of new ideas to share with tutors who were unable to attend; I’ll share in more detail in the next  Literacy Lines Tutor Corner. And like so many times before, the whole evening left me with a renewed appreciation of how lucky our organization is to have such dedicated, thoughtful, and creative volunteers working with its students.

Elise Bruml, Director of Tutoring Programs

Best Plus

September 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Calendar, Testing, Training, Volunteers | Comments Off on Best Plus

On September 11, the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia hosted a training given by Margaret Kiernan on administering the Basic English Skills Test (also known as the BEST Plus Test). The BEST Plus Test is used to determine the level of English competency of students enrolling in ESL programs. The Literacy Council utilizes the results of BEST Plus testing to place students in the appropriate program as well as to determine progress made by students after each semester.
Margaret Kiernan taught a full house of prospective testers the ins-and-outs of administering a BEST Plus Test. BEST Plus examines three dimensions of verbal ability, namely, comprehension, complexity, and communication. In order to get the highest score in comprehension, a student must demonstrate they understand the question without repetition and are able to give an appropriate answer. The score for complexity measures a student’s command over English syntax. Finally, the score given for communication evaluates the clarity of the student’s answers. If the tester can easily understand the answer, the student will receive the highest score.
Beyond explaining the complexities of scoring, Margaret Kiernan gave volunteers some insight on the emotions of the students they were soon to test. While new examiners may be nervous administering their first tests, the student sitting ninety-degrees to them would be doubly so. Testers should make the atmosphere relaxing and give as much encouragement to the student as the test allows. While it is easy to get lost in the intricacies of the BEST Plus test, Margaret did a great job grounding the test in its ultimate purpose, to effectively serve the needs of ESL learners.
Thank you to Margaret Kiernan and to all the volunteers who spent their September 11th day of service with the Literacy Council.

-Kerrin Epstein, AmeriCorps Volunteer

September is Here!

September 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Announcements, Basic Literacy, Calendar, Class, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on September is Here!

September is here! September is here! This is the month we all love to hate and hate to love here at LCNV. Here’s what’s going on:

Saturdays, Sept. 11, Sept. 25 & Oct. 2:  Basic Literacy Tutor Trainings – This intensive, 3-Saturday workshop trains volunteers to tutor an adult learning to speak, understand, read, and write English. Please click here for more information.

Saturday, Sept. 11: BEST Plus Training for New Student Assessment Specialists – This one-day workshop trains volunteers to administer the BEST Plus test to students in the classroom programs.  Please e-mail mailto:volunteers@lcnv.org for more information.

Sept. 14-21: ESOL Learning Centers and Family Learning Program Class Registrations (various locations) – Beginning level adult English learners are invited to register for classes near their home.  Please click here for a detailed schedule.

Saturday, Sept. 18: ESOL Classroom Training – This one-day session trains volunteers to teach or help as an aide in the ESOL Learning Centers or Family Learning Program. Please e-mail mailto:volunteers@lcnv.orgfor more information.

Belle Peñaranda, Director of Volunteers

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