An AmeriCorps Member Gets Things Done…

August 19, 2014 at 12:36 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on An AmeriCorps Member Gets Things Done…

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“What do you do?”

This question is difficult, but fun to answer. Initially I tell people I am an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor; but when I add that I am also an AmeriCorps member, they inevitably respond with:

“What’s AmeriCorps?”

Prior to serving as an AmeriCorps member I honestly didn’t know myself. After research I knew it had something to do with public service, but that’s it; I didn’t understand the role of an AmeriCorps member in their community.

An AmeriCorps member gets things done by dedicating their time to serving their community with compassion and dignity. What I have learned through the months is that an AmeriCorps service year can be one of the most rewarding experiences. I have learned a lot and gained invaluable experiences. Through my AmeriCorps service year at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia I was taught essential skills that would help me serve my community better and more fully. I feel more confident moving forward in my career with the skills I have developed at the Literacy Council. Most of all, I was taught and shown how to be a leader in my community and these leadership skills will prove to be helpful as I continue in public service.

AmeriCorps, we not only “get things done” but we do it as one cohesive unit. After graduating from college I moved back to my hometown; I felt so lonely and isolated. I no longer had the close friends I had in college. After just months into my AmeriCorps service year I became really close with my colleagues at LCNV and other AmeriCorps members serving at other organizations. We planned social events outside of work, which helped us grow even more as a team. Even after our service year is over I can say that I have truly built lasting friendships with other individuals who share the same interests as me.

Finally, the most unforgettable part of my service year was the opportunity to serve my community and to interact with the people I serve. In the past I have volunteered with many other organizations where we were always raising money, collecting food or goods, or creating care packages, but I never got to see this underserved population we were helping. I feel that more so than money and material possessions, the greatest thing a person can give is time, because it is invaluable. During my AmeriCorps service year I had time to get to know the population of people I was helping. I was able to hear their stories, their needs, their wants, and their appreciation for me simply taking my time to listen. I am so happy with my AmeriCorps service year and I look forwards to many more years in public service.

Shani Brown, AmeriCorps ESOL Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042


Get Connected: LCNV’s Summer 2014 Newsletter

August 15, 2014 at 3:22 PM | Posted in News, Student Stories, Volunteers | Comments Off on Get Connected: LCNV’s Summer 2014 Newsletter

LCNV’s Literacy Lines│Summer 2014 Newsletter is online now!

Prefer to receive by email? Sign up here.

Online version

PDF version
In the pdf version, some articles may be abridged or omitted due to space limitations.

In this issue:

Write for The Student Special

August 15, 2014 at 1:31 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Student Special, the Literacy Council’s newsletter for students, has been around for over 30 years. It started with a group of writers trained in a workshop given at the Council’s office.  Additional workshops were conducted in subsequent years. At times we had a half dozen or more members in our Writers Group.

Over time, fewer people began attending the writers workshops, and interest in the Writers Group dwindled. Members moved away, died, or simply dropped out. I have tried to recruit new members with no success.

Currently we have only two active members. Many of the pieces in The Student Special have been recycled from previous issues. Some have been recycled more than once.

Additionally, in the early years we would receive pieces written by students. Many were about their own experiences, but some were not. Now we’re no longer getting material from students.

If The Student Special is to continue, we need to have more writers, including students. Writing isn’t all that difficult; it just takes some practice. Some of our pieces are written at the Skill Books 1 to 3 level, using a controlled vocabulary. Others don’t follow the skill books but are at the approximate reading level for grades 1, 2, or 3. The reason we write at a low level is that this is the level where less other material is produced. Our student-written pieces are done at a level comfortable for the writers.

If you are interested in helping out with the student newsletter, please contact I’ll be happy to send you material on how to get started and to meet with you if you prefer. If you have a student who is interested in writing, you can e-mail me his or her piece(s). I have always published nearly everything I’ve received from students. And I won’t use the student’s name if he or she doesn’t want me to.

If you have not read it already,  you can read the most recent edition of The Student Special Summer 2014 here. Past issues can be downloaded here. Share it with your learners!

Ron Wise, Editor, The Student Special
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042

LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations, Part 2

August 15, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Posted in Development | Comments Off on LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations, Part 2
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Hungry for more books? Well, with our Books-a -Million Bookfair (Store #597) Bookfair fundraising event coming up tomorrow August 16, now’s the time to plan your purchases to benefit the Literacy Council. A percentage of the total profits made between 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, August 16, 2014 will be donated to LCNV to support its mission of teaching adults beginning-level English skills. Just present the LCNV Books-a-Million voucher at the point of sale for your purchases to qualify. Books-a-Million (Store #597) is located at 1451 Chain Bridge Rd McLean, VA 22101.  Can’t wait to see you there! Download LCNV Books-a-Million voucher and see more at

Here’s part two of the LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Adult fiction) Marriage can be a real killer. From the review, “Marriage can be a real killer. Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong.” The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn. With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.”

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh – Hilarious collection of illustrated stories from the popular blog.  Just try to read this without laughing out loud. Every time Allie Brosh posts something new on her hugely popular blog Hyperbole and a Half the internet rejoices. From the review, “Touching, absurd, and darkly comic, Allie Brosh’s highly anticipated book Hyperbole and a Half showcases her unique voice, leaping wit, and her ability to capture complex emotions with deceptively simple illustrations.”

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Children’s fiction; young adult) “A coming of age fantasy story that sympathizes with typical teen girl awkwardness and insecurity, highlighting courage, resourcefulness and the importance of familial ties as key to overcoming them,” wrote Carol Platt Liebau, author, in the New York Post.  The story focuses on the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

Still hungry for more books?
See LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations, Part 1 here.

Event: Books-a-Million (Store #597) Bookfair to benefit LCNV
Date: Saturday, August 16, 2014
Time: 1-4 p.m.
Location: Books-a-Million (Store #597), 1451 Chain Bridge Rd McLean, VA 22101
Summary:  A percentage of the total profits made between 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, August 16, 2014 will be donated to LCNV to support its mission of teaching adults beginning-level English skills. Just present the LCNV Books-a-Million voucher at the point of sale for your purchases to qualify.

Download the LCNV Books-a-Million voucher and see exclusions at:

LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations, Part 1

August 12, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on LCNV Summer 2014 Book Recommendations, Part 1

Is summer coming to an end all too soon? Before it’s gone, here are some
Summer 2014 Book Recommendations and there are suggestions for all ages! Visit your local library or our Books-a -Million (Store #597) Bookfair fundraiser this Saturday, August 16 from 1-4 p.m. (event info. and address below) once you’ve found a book that speaks to you. Happy reading!

Nights at the Circus by Erin Morgernstern (Adult fiction), Set against a Victorian London backdrop, a long-standing duel between two master magicians pits their young apprentices against one another in an elusively tantalizing Circus of Dreams that is only open from sunset to sunrise.  Catch is:  the apprentices don’t know who their adversary is and their mentors won’t tell them.

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer (Author), Nicoletta Ceccoli (Illustrator).  (Young reader, ages  6 and up) From the book review, “Here is an original fairy tale that feels like a dream—haunting, beautiful, and completely unforgettable.”  Beautifully illustrated (think Magritte).

Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst (Adult fiction),
As the shadow of World War II darkens Europe, democratic forces on the Continent struggle against fascism and communism, while in Spain the war has already begun.  A group of unlikely men and women (idealists, gangsters, arms traders, aristocrats and spies) band together to battle Hitler and Franco’s secret agents. Furst offers his readers a spellbinding portrait of a continent on the eve of war, and analyzes how humans from different walks of life respond to growing crisis.

China Dolls by Lisa See (Adult fiction),
In pre-World War II San Francisco we meet three young Chinese-American nightclub performers who, despite pronounced difference in backgrounds and personalities, forge resilient friendships. From the book review, “Told from the distinct perspectives of each woman and spanning a full half century, China Dolls presents a historical epoch with a multilayered richness. A perfect vacation carry-along.”

The Invention of Wingsby Sue Monk Kidd (Adult fiction/historical fiction),
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Readers learn about the girls’ complex relationsip as they embark on a quest for freedom. Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Also consider reading these books from LCNV’s literary friends (we like to support our friends!):

A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés Tapas (Adult non-fiction)
This book is the first major Spanish cookbook in two decades, from José Andrés, named America’s Chef of the Year by Bon Appétit, and acclaimed restauranteur, co-owner/creator of local restaurants, America Eats (McLean, VA), Zaytina, Jaleo and Oyamel among others.

Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen by José Andrés Tapas (Adult non-fiction)
In this irresistible companion volume to his public television show Made in Spain, José reminds us—in the most alluring and delicious way—that the food of his native Spain is as varied and inventive as any of the world’s great cuisines. To prove it, José takes us on a flavorful tour of his beloved homeland, from Andalucía to Aragón. Along the way, he shares recipes that reflect not just local traditions but also the heart and soul of Spain’s distinctive cooking.

The Target (third book in the Wil Robie series) by David Baldacci (Adult fiction)
The President knows it’s a perilous, high-risk assignment. If he gives the order, he has the opportunity to take down a global menace, once and for all. If the mission fails, he would face certain impeachment, and the threats against the nation would multiply. So the president turns to the one team that can pull off the impossible: Will Robie and his partner, Jessica Reel. Together, Robie and Reel’s talents as assassins are unmatched. But there are some in power who don’t trust the pair. They doubt their willingness to follow orders. And they will do anything to see that the two assassins succeed, but that they do not survive.

King and Maxwell (fifth book in the King and Maxwell series) by David Baldacci (Adult fiction)
Tyler Wingo, a teenage boy, learns the awful news that his father, a soldier, was killed in action in Afghanistan. Then the extraordinary happens: Tyler receives a communication from his father… after his supposed death. Tyler hires Sean and Michelle to solve the mystery surrounding his father. But their investigation quickly leads to deeper, more troubling questions. Could Tyler’s father really still be alive? What was his true mission? Could Tyler be the next target? Sean and Michelle soon realize that they’ve stumbled on to something bigger and more treacherous than anyone could have imagined.

Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient and Rewarding For All by Robert Egger.  (Adult non-fiction)
Egger’s book on the non-profit sector, was released in 2004 by HarperCollins. It received the 2005 McAdam Book Award for “Best Nonprofit Management Book” by the Alliance for Nonprofit Management.

The Truth about Financial Retirement Plans and IRAs by Ric Edelman (Adult non-fiction)
The #1 national bestseller1 from the #1 independent financial advisor in America, ranked three times by Barron’s is a guide to making the most of your retirement plans and assuring long-term financial security.

Consider purchasing these books during the Literacy Council’s 2014 Books-a-Million (Store # 597) fundraising event on August 16 from 1:00-4:00p.m. The store is located at 1451 Chain Bridge Rd McLean, VA 22101. Hope you can make it! See more:


LCNV AmeriCorps Reflection on the First Day of Teaching

August 1, 2014 at 3:48 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on LCNV AmeriCorps Reflection on the First Day of Teaching

AmeriCorps Member Tell-All brought to you by “Ameri-Tristen”

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The night before class starts, you toss and turn. Eventually you doze off only to find yourself sitting at your desk the next day. Where did the night, and morning, go? Finally, judgment day is here.

You look at the clock and it confirms your worst fear, the final countdown has started. You stand up and nervously gather your things.

Now, all you have are new acquaintances whom you’ve barely gotten to know let alone trust telling you, “You’ll be fine; they’re going to love you.” Somehow, their positive words fail to persuade you and make you feel even more incapable of doing what it is you’re passionate about, teaching. Your cheeks flush and sweat starts to form upon your brow as your body rapidly heats up like a furnace in the dead of winter – even though it’s the end of summer– and you painfully force a halfhearted smile that isn’t even the slightest bit convincing and you respond with, “Thanks.” You resentfully start towards your car. You feel like dying.

As if the feeling of going to “war” underprepared isn’t agonizing enough, now comes the daunting task of crossing U.S. Route 50 and making it to your final destination not only on time, but with time to spare so you can set up and get prepared for the faces that will come. You have at least forty students coming and that’s not even including the ones that just seem to materialize. On top of that, you’re the one responsible for getting those students to their appropriate destination as seamlessly as possible – not to mention directing the volunteers to their respective locations. Even more, it’s your duty not to walk down the ghastly spiral staircase into the depths of desperation because it’s imperative that the students, volunteers and host site have a positive experience. After all, you’re the face of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. The success of this organization feels like it falls solely on you. You exhale with a great sigh of relief when you see that you’re driving onto a desolate road that even provided a green light as you cross 50. The universe may just have decided to work with, and not against, you. You proceed cautiously.

Now, thirty minutes is all that stands between you and the start of the 2013 fall semester. Those new acquaintances (later dubbed AmeriPeeps) may have only been nice because they felt they had to, however, their invaluable creativity has left you feeling confident and ready to go. Who would have known that all the seemingly unimportant small talk and idea sharing would come in handy? Having a color-coded system where students’ names are written/typed upon index card sized pieces of colored paper –three different types of colors to indicate levels- and placing them on a table for students to find their names and go towards the classrooms with their respective color is priceless. It makes for little supervision and is extremely time efficient so that way you can work with the newcomers filling out registration forms without the unappreciated added stress. Just as the drive was painless so was the welcoming of students. Then class begins and… you’re lost.

You slowly move to the front of the room; your hands are shaking, you feel your heart pulsating in your throat. For a moment your mind blanks. All the things you prepared to say escape you and you stand there staring. Eyes. That’s all there is. A sea of eyes staring back at you. Nervously, you begin talking, “H-HI. HOOOW. IIS. EV-ER-Y-ONE?” To your surprise you see smiles followed by a few saying, “Good teacher. You?” Ok, maybe that could have been done in a more appropriate manner. While these people are here to learn English they aren’t deaf and surely do not lack intelligence. You start to smile and say, “I’m fine” (however, this time at normal speed). Slowly turning towards the only Spanish speaker in class, you say, “My name is Tristen, what’s your name?”

Windows down, one hand on the wheel, and the other bobbing up and down in the wind; traffic’s the last thing on your mind. A huge smile on your face; you’re on cloud nine. Every feeling of doubt is gone. Nothing feels as amazing as when you’re done teaching and the class was well-received. It was amazing! You loved it! The students seemed to be interested in what you were saying and ready to return for more. Stepping through the door back into the office, everyone sees you grinning after a successful first class. Coming down off of your high, you finally realize you’re sitting staring at your computer; time to prepare for the next class.

AmeriCorps 2013-2014: End of Year Reflections

August 1, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

With the LCNV 2013-2014 school year at a close, we will be bidding farewell to two of our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) AmeriCorps instructors: Tristen Mimiaga and C. Renato Jaramillo-Villa as they head off for new adventures.  However, LCNV is incredibly fortunate to retain two of our AmeriCorps instructors, Shani Brown (for a second term) and Xavier Munoz (for a third term!). Per tradition we have solicited some LCNV End-of-Year reflections from all four of our AmeriCorps Instructors.   Keep an eye out for future AmeriCorps End-of-Year reflection blogs in the coming week!

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We’ll kick off this series of reflections with a profile of Tristen Mimiaga and his take on what the first day of teaching was like at LCNV.  It will be interesting to compare that piece to his forthcoming end of year reflection.

Tristen Mimaga

Tristen Mimaga

Tristen Mimiaga is a memorable personality with a full head of curly hair and a wonderful big smile. His students absolutely love him. A first-hand witness said of Tristen’s students, “When they walk into Mental Health America building, they seem tired and cranky but when they leave his class, they are laughing and smiling with a bounce in their steps. He’s doing something right!”

His personal goals are to be an excellent teacher (he’s well on the way), to teach Spanish and participate in the Peace Corps.

His background is Mexican by way of Etla, Oaxaca and American by way of Yadkin County, 30 minutes west of Winston Salem, North Carolina. He eventually made his way to Broadway, Virginia with his family and matriculated from George Mason University (GMU) in 2012. During his time at George Mason, he came to realize that for him not being bilingual was one cultural component that made him feel that he could not truly understand the other half of his heritage (Mexico). He began to study Spanish and English in earnest at university and it fostered his desire to help other adult learners struggling to learn English and connect with the community around them.

His path to LCNV came about through participating and leading an Alternative Break trip at GMU (one component involved teaching English as Second Language (ESL) learners) as well as serving as an ESL instructor through a church-based program. Daniel Afzal, a good friend and LCNV Volunteer, met Tristen at GMU and knowing his interest in language instruction and Peace Corps, recommended that he apply for the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) AmeriCorps instructor position at LCNV. Tristen immediately applied and was absolutely thrilled to be selected as a 2013-2014 LCNV AmeriCorps ESOL instructor, which was an extremely easy choice given his enthusiasm and passion to make a difference in the lives of adult learners trying to connect through language.

LCNV is thrilled to have Tristen onboard. As mentioned earlier, he connects so well with his students, especially through his wicked sense of humor, and really gets them engaged and wanting to keep coming back to class, which can be a challenge with adult learners struggling with complicated schedules and limited transportation accessibility.

Recently, Tristen initiated a student testimonial video project at the end of his service year and given his rapport with the students, we can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Please look for our next post,  a first-hand account from Tristen of how nerve-racking and challenging it can be for our ESOL Classroom instructors personally, especially as they prepare for that first day of teaching at LCNV. It is a relatable story and shows the emotions that lie beneath the surface of our new AmeriCorps ESOL instructors’ talented, poised and apparently effortless teaching demeanor.

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