Graduation Slide Show

May 31, 2011 at 4:12 PM | Posted in Class, ESOL, Family Learning, Graduations, Teaching, Volunteers | Comments Off on Graduation Slide Show
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At the end of each session, the ESOL classes conclude with a graduation ceremony, including food, certificates, and family. Some of my favorite memories are from graduation day. The students are proud to receive their certificates in front of their classmates and families. Many of the students exchange phone numbers and emails with their new friends from class. The Classroom Programs just finished the last round of spring graduations, and we would like to share some graduation pictures. Click on the slide show above to view the pictures.

Jim Goes Through Hard Times: Student Creative Writing

May 26, 2011 at 1:36 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Student Stories, Tutoring | 1 Comment
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The following story is a piece of creative writing by a Basic Literacy Student.  The student, who requested that his name not be shared, wrote this piece independently and shared it with his tutor.  We are happy to publish students’ writing and are very impressed with all of the hard work that students and tutors put into their writing.

 Jim Goes Through Hard Times

 Jim lives with his girl friend, because his mother is dead.  Jim is a good man.  When Jim was a little boy, his dad was a hard worker, but he loved Jim.  Jim’s mother Pat loved them, but when Jim was eight, his mother went away.  She said that she was going to send for Jim, but she never did.  When Jim was ten, his mother was killed in a boat that was going too fast.  Jim missed his mother very much, but he loved his father, too.

                “Dad needs me,” Jim said.  “I can keep the house clean.  I can do a lot to take care of Dad.”

 Jim did need help.  After Jim’s mother was killed, Jim started drinking bad.  At first, he just drank on Saturday.  He never drank on the job.  Jim stopped working and he started drinking all the time.  Jim’s dad said to him, “You need help.  Please.  For me, Jim.  I love you.    

 Jim got help for his drinking.  Jim has not had a drink in a year.

Three Cheers for the BAL Training Team!

May 24, 2011 at 1:25 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Training, Tutoring, Volunteers | Comments Off on Three Cheers for the BAL Training Team!
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What do a securities analyst, a librarian and a retired reading specialist have in common?  No, it isn’t a joke; it’s just part of the BAL training team, and just one thing that makes this team so special.  The current BAL training team consists of Marykate Dougherty, Pat May, Lisa Bellamy, Sandi Eisenstein, Nick Rosenbach and Pat Hayden.  The last BAL training session trained over 20 volunteer tutors to work with Basic Adult Literacy students from all over northern Virginia, and they all go forth well-prepared by this excellent group of trainers. 

The training team has worked together for over ten years, with some members serving LCNV for more than 20 years in various roles, from tutor to staff member to board member.  The current training manual was written almost entirely by volunteers, many of whom still serve on the training team.

During our last training workshop we were lucky enough to be joined by two prospective new trainers.  Pat Thompson is a current tutor and Max Postman is a former tutor – both looking to become more involved with the Literacy Council.  Pat and Max brought fresh energy and new perspectives to the training and we all look forward to sharing ideas as we head into summer to freshen up our already excellent training for the next crop of tutors.  Stay tuned for more updates on our new and improved BAL training and if you have any ideas, please let us know!

-Molly Chilton, Basic Literacy Tutoring Specialist

Building Friendships in the Classroom

May 19, 2011 at 2:17 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Community, ESOL, Student Stories, Teaching | Comments Off on Building Friendships in the Classroom
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While our number one priority is to increase our student’s literacy skills, there are certain other services that are as important and that we probably rarely think about. For example, in our classes students become friends. They build relationships that sometimes go beyond the classroom. Certainly this helps our students feel like they are part of a community and that they are not alone, that there are other people going through the same problems and trying to reach the same objectives.

In one of my classes three people that speak two different languages became friends, and this helped the classroom environment a lot. The two students from Pakistan became ill during the session, and so the student from Sudan would call, using the little English she knew, to find out how the other two students were doing. It takes a lot of courage to pick-up the phone and speak in a language you just started learning, but it also demonstrates how comfortable these students were with each other. I hope that these students continue to be friends and learn together. 

-Jose Flores, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member


Welcome Serife!

May 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM | Posted in Class, ESOL, Family Learning, Staff, Teaching, Volunteers | Comments Off on Welcome Serife!
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Many of you may have read Serife Turkol’s recent post about transitioning from a lead teacher to her new position with the Literacy Council as the ESOL Learning Centers Specialist.  We are very happy to welcome her in her new role.  I would like to thank Serife for over four years of excellent teaching with the Family Learning Program, having served as the lead teacher at Herndon Fortnightly and at a former site, McNair Elementary School.   Not only did she serve as a Family Learning lead teacher and ESOL Learning Centers lead teacher, but she also served as a volunteer trainer, test administrator, and in her first role at LCNV in 2006, as a class aide for a workforce literacy class.  During these years Serife has been beloved by her students and has mentored numerous volunteer teachers.  One of the volunteer teachers Serife has worked with over the past few years is Sanem Cardin who has taken on the role as lead teacher of the Herndon Fortnightly site.

-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist

Library Trip and Graduation Activities

May 16, 2011 at 11:06 AM | Posted in Class, Community, Lesson Plans, Teaching, Volunteers | Comments Off on Library Trip and Graduation Activities
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My Family Learning Program Crestwood Elementary class took a field trip to the Richard Byrd Library this spring.  It was pouring rain.  Icy rain has become traditional for our class library visit day.  Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library Manager, welcomed us and showed us all around the library.  She then read us a Lois Ehlert book!  It is a bilingual book called Un Lazo a la Luna, Moon Rope in English.  Sandy is bilingual, having grown up in Argentina, and I had asked her to read us a bilingual book to encourage our students to use the library with their children, especially during the summer.  The reading went over very well, and there were many appreciative faces among our students.  Four students received library cards – Elsa, Kathia, Zulma, and Teresa.  All have kids who will benefit from coming to the library.  Now all of our students have library cards!

After class, I met with volunteer teachers Marla and Judy to iron out some details about graduation and the next five classes.  We will be having a spelling bee using words learned and used in class during the last semester.  The spelling bee will be held during the first part of the graduation day class on May 25.  We are going to give out a spelling list beforehand to all the students so they can practice spelling in English.

-Elizabeth Magee, LCNV Lead Teacher, Family Learning Program, Crestwood Elementary School

Finding the Center

May 12, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Teaching | Comments Off on Finding the Center

I went home to Chicago last week. It was awesome – here are just a couple of the highlights: a trip to Holland, MI to spend the day with my college roommates who I hadn’t seen since graduation, a trip to WI to visit my grandma, a surprise 50th birthday party for my dad, and last but not least, getting my mom a puppy for mother’s day! Despite the action-packed nature of this particular trip home, my visit was exactly what I needed. I don’t know about you, but for me, going home is always a centering experience; in the ‘busyness’ of this part of the country, my job, really just my whole life right now, I suppose I’m always a little in danger of losing sight of that center.

I’m always reading, and this trip wasn’t an exception: I work for a literacy organization, so I guess that should come as no surprise to anyone. I finished the closing sentences of Mountains Beyond Mountains just as the plane touched down at Dulles, Monday night. Reading Mountains back in college had been a worldview-altering experience, and as I was perusing the used book section of the local Goodwill (one of my all-time favorite haunts), I came across a copy and decided to pick it up again.

If you’ve never read Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder’s page-turning account of the life and work of the famous Doctor Paul Farmer, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I first read it near the end of my time in college, and for an idealistic 20-year-old, Paul Farmer gave a shape and a voice to a lot of the raw and unformed notions I had about how a life ought to be lived. If I recall correctly, I even cited this book in the personal statement segment of my AmeriCorps application as part of my motivation for applying.

In any case, the combination of the Midwest, college friends, family time, and a healthy dose of Paul Farmer were just what the doctor ordered (pun intended). One of the main reasons I decided to spend my first year out of college doing AmeriCorps was because I wanted to get some experience in non-profit service since I was thinking about graduate school for social work, and LCNV provided an awesome opportunity for hands-on experience doing something for someone else. This past year has more than solidified that desire, but when I was actually accepted to a graduate program a couple weeks back, everything was suddenly becoming a reality (so naturally I freaked out!)

In Mountains, Kidder writes: “Farmer taps into a universal anxiety…into what he calls ‘ambivalence,’ the often unacknowledged uneasiness that some of the fortunate feel about their place in the world, the thing he told me once he designed his life to avoid.” Regardless of whatever comes next for me, what a great example of ‘center’ I rediscovered as I re-read this book during my trip home.

 In addition to Mountains Beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder), I thought I’d leave you with a short sampling of books that have changed my life: The Brothers K (David James Duncan), Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry), and Travelling Mercies (Anne Lamott).

 -Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

An Exciting Transition

May 9, 2011 at 11:36 AM | Posted in Class, ESOL, Family Learning, News, Staff, Teaching | Comments Off on An Exciting Transition
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As Learning Centers started to bring its spring term to a close and Family Learning classes went on a Spring Break, I was getting ready for a new transition in my life. Last week I started my new job at the office as an ESOL Learning Centers Specialist, resigning from my lead teacher position with the Council.

 For me, it has always been hard to say “goodbye” to students at the end of sessions. But generally you know you will be there next time teaching again. This one was the hardest of all: I knew I wouldn’t be teaching four nights a week anymore. As we said our goodbyes, I asked my students to continue taking classes and practicing their English daily, and I promised to do my best to help developing programs that address and meet our students’ needs. I also knew that I will never forget what my students have taught me over these years.  

 As I spent my first week learning about my new job, I had great time among very enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated group of people working together to develop and support best educational programs to serve thousands of adults in the area. I have been very excited and proud to join the staff here at the Council. 

 -Serife Turkol, ESOL Learning Centers Specialist

A Breath of Fresh Air

May 3, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Community Partners, Volunteers | Comments Off on A Breath of Fresh Air
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It’s hard to believe that another spring session has come to a close in our Learning Center classes! It zoomed by, with barely time to take a breath. Yet, as I look back at the session, I realize I did get a welcome breath of fresh air. How could I forget: our AmeriCorps trip to BEACON Literacy in Bristow, Virginia!

While it’s always good to reconnect with our fellow Northern Virginia literacy AmeriCorps crew, our adventure over at BEACON was a special treat for me. We had been invited to BEACON to celebrate our opportunity to participate in such an amazing service program, while simultaneously taking the time to thank the people who have made our experiences with AmeriCorps both possible and so positive.

As with many adventures involving cars, this particular adventure commenced with plan “Gas Saver”, consisting of an early morning rendezvous at the James Lee Community Center. After a brief grumble about whose car was “the road trip car”, we piled in and away we went. BEACON, here we come! We drove away from the greater DC area with the sun shining and the wind whipping through our open windows. I was surprised at how quickly things started to spread out (traffic, houses, buildings- you name it). It felt good from the get-go, this little adventure of ours. And, after some brief directional mishaps, we made it! We were able to reunite with Harman, Sarah, and Sabrina at last.

When we all convened, we were first led on a tour of the Monastery grounds and gardens. It was breathtaking! With over 100 acres of land, a spiritual labyrinth, and very impressive gardens, the Benedictine Monastery serves as the home of BEACON for Adult Literacy in Bristow. As we walked through the gardens and learned of the monastery’s history, I wished our stay was not so brief so we could get to know our welcoming hosts even more.

Some highlights of our adventure include a brief stint in a simple, but beautiful chapel, a celebratory, caterpillar-cake to accompany our family-style meal with some of the Benedictine Sisters and, most memorably, the goodie bags of appreciation. Each of us AmeriCorps members received a zip-lock bag filled with little symbols of the different roles we play in our organizations (think things like a jack, because we are a “jack-of-all-trades”) with a special, super-sized goodie bag for Susan, our resident superwoman, who works tirelessly to make sure the seven of us have our ducks in a row when it comes to all things AmeriCorps.

Even now, after living in Falls Church for the past eight months, the sheer quantity of individuals that live, work, and (most notably) drive around the greater DC area is staggering. Being wedged between Interstates 495, 66, and Route 267, sometimes I forget that there are places not so far away where being surrounded by nature is the norm. It was nice to get away, to feel the camaraderie with other people who have similar professional goals and struggles, and to smell some pretty flowers!

Thanks to Susan, BEACON, and the hospitality of the Benedictine Sisters, the Literacy Councils’ AmeriCorps of Northern Virginia finally got together for our much overdue reunion. What a great day. It really is amazing how much good a little bit of fresh air can do!

-Sara Venjohn, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member

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