Celebrate: National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2014

September 22, 2014 at 5:00 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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It is fitting that many of LCNV’s ESOL and Family Learning classes will be having their first day of class during National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (September 22-28, 2014).  The number of tasks required in our department to register students and get ready for the first week of classes can sometimes seem insurmountable, but seeing the adults and families take steps in an academic journey makes the effort meaningful.  I recently tested a woman at a registration who returned to our ESOL classes with a renewed sense of purpose having suffered a massive stroke this past May.  She has two young children at home and feared the worst during her injury.  Despite facing many challenges and at such an early phase of her recovery, she decided to register for classes this semester.  She sees her survival as an opportunity to refocus on her education and herself.  During National Adult Education and Family Literacy week there may be a lot of discussion about the low literacy skills of the population served by adult education programs, but after a decade in this field I find I am moved by the skills and potential our students bring with them when they come to class.  As adult educators we must recognize these strengths and support the students as they work on new skills.

Carisa C. Pineda, Family Learning Specialist
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
www.lcnv.org

Strength in Personal Truth

September 11, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Strength in Personal Truth, Original Word Cloud by Xavier Munoz

Strength in Personal Truth, Original Word Cloud by Xavier Munoz

I was honored many times this service year to speak about my AmeriCorps experience at events like the Virginia AmeriCorps Statewide Launch and the White House Cesar Chavez Champions of Change ceremony. Each event encouraged me to take more responsibility for raising the visibility and reputation of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. In my day-to-day role at LCNV, I teach classes, support volunteers and help with a variety of projects. Those speaking opportunities reminded me that I can do so much more, that I can effect change more broadly. But as that sense of responsibility has grown, so, too, has the need to keep hold of my own truth.

Whether it’s giving a speech or teaching a class, I realize now that there’s always an element of performance and display. But there were moments while preparing for my speeches when I couldn’t distinguish between ideas that others would expect and hope me to say and ideas that I personally held. As someone who in the past has been paralyzed by expectation, I consider this distinction of ideas to be personally relevant.

One such idea relates to if there is a connection between the immigrant background of my family and the students I now serve. Yes, my parents immigrated to this country, and their experiences have undoubtedly contributed to how I am today. Yes, my AmeriCorps position at LCNV enables me to teach English to adult immigrants. But, rather than joining to give back to immigrant communities specifically, I committed to AmeriCorps because it was an opportunity for an intensive experience doing something in which I had a budding interest and in an area of the country brimming with a spirit of service.

A second such idea relates to if I consider teaching to be my passion. Prior to tutoring adult basic literacy two years ago in Tampa, I only ever entertained the idea of teaching as a way to travel abroad. My background is in how language operates in the mind. Teaching English to speakers of other languages makes that background come alive. Each student’s language learning journey is a challenging puzzle that never ceases to excite. Classes in which students are engaged and participating energize me. Classes in which I’ve left students lost and frustrated leave me searching for solutions. Call it semantics, but, for me, teaching is more a fascinating exercise.

Looking back on a year full of speaking events and conference presentations, I now value the opportunity I have to be a voice of change for LCNV and AmeriCorps. But, if asked to convince someone to join, I would just share my story – why I came to serve and how service develops my interests and informs my path forward. After two years of getting to know fellow AmeriCorps members at LCNV, Loudoun Literacy Council, BEACON for Adult Literacy and other organizations, I believe that our most compelling stories are the ones we live.

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Xavier Munoz
AmeriCorps Classroom Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
www.lcnv.org

Tutor Tip: Citizenship Tutoring: Are You Up to the Challenge?

September 4, 2014 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Tutoring | 1 Comment

The journey to citizenship can seem daunting for tutors and students alike, but LCNV resources can help.

Image from Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A recommended resource available in the LCNV library.

Image from Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A recommended resource available in the LCNV library.

Adults come to LCNV to learn to speak, read or write English, but their reasons for doing so vary. Many want to get jobs or improve their standing in the workforce. Some aspire to read to their children at bedtime or advocate for them at school. Others seek to continue educations interrupted in faraway lands long ago. And some come with the dream of becoming citizens of the United States of America. From the tutor’s perspective, no goal can seem as intimidating as preparing a student for the citizenship test.

Tutors often wonder if their students are ready to embark upon the citizenship journey. Over the years, LCNV has witnessed a wide variety of learners successfully attain this goal. Some have been college graduates or fluent readers in their native languages while others never graduated from high school or learned to read in their home countries. It very much depends upon the individual, the person’s motivation and the time devoted to preparation. Regardless of the student, tutors should seek guidance and resources to offer the best possible instruction.

One of my personal goals has been to assemble small groups of tutors with specific areas of expertise who are willing to serve as resources for their peers. The citizenship arena, in particular, seemed to have a pressing need for such a resource. We reached out to our tutors in this regard and were delighted with the response. In June we launched the Tutor Resource Group on Citizenship Test Preparation with tutors Claire Brown, Joan Huber and Mary Voldnes from the BAL program and Jan Auerbach, Steve Cooper, Ed Faggen, Anne Jillson and Bob Stump from the ESOL program. Each individual in the group has successfully prepared one or more students for the Citizenship test.

I spoke to one tutor who has already sought guidance from this group. Karen has been tutoring Andrea, a 30-something year old woman from Peru, since 2011. Andrea works as a nanny and is required to speak Spanish to her charges, thereby limiting her ability to practice English. Nevertheless she is a hardworking, dedicated student who has shown significant progress each of the four times LCNV assessed her skills. Now she wants to work on becoming a citizen. “Why citizenship and why now?” I ask.  “She wants to vote. She wants to have a say,” Karen says. “But she put it off because of the expense.”  A hefty fee of $680 covers the cost of the application plus fingerprinting.

“In my heart I have felt she was ready for some time,” Karen says. “But it still feels like a responsibility to do this with my student. It’s a little scary. That’s why as soon as I read about the group, I wrote to them. They immediately responded with a lot of advice and ideas. They even commented on each other’s responses.”

LCNV also has acquired other resources for tutors and students working towards this lofty goal, including a series of books by Lynne Weintraub called “Citizenship: Passing the Test” from New Readers Press. The books in this series include “Literacy Skills,” “Civics and Literacy” and “Ready for the Interview.” We are currently able to provide one of these books free of charge to every student actively preparing for the test. The others can be purchased or borrowed from our library. The LCNV library also contains flash cards, audio and video material and other books from sources including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If you are thinking of helping a student with citizenship, here are some tutor tips to get you started:

  • Check the web site for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for valuable information and resources. Go to http://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship.
  • Write to us at Tutoring@LCNV.org for a consultation with the Tutor Resource Group on Citizenship Test Preparation and a complementary student book.
  • Visit the LCNV library shelves on citizenship.
  • Advise your student to pursue the application when you are fairly confident that the student can pass. Otherwise it is an expensive proposition. ( Ed Faggen )
  • Leave adequate time for memorization of 100 civics questions.
  • Drill for spelling. “Spelling was the hardest for my student. I’d pick three to four of the sentences in the Weintraub book and have him write them ten times for homework. I’d then test him on them during the next session. After a while, he was doing fine, except for some words. I’d have him write only these ten times and test in the next session.” (Bob Stump)

Additional resources exist in our surrounding community. Hogar Immigrant Services (Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington) offers Citizenship Workshops where staff attorneys and trained volunteers help eligible applicants complete citizenship applications. The next workshop is on Saturday, September 13 at Arlington County Department of Human Services and costs $40. For more information, visit Hogar’s website.

Do you have a story about preparing a student for the citizenship challenge?  Would you like to serve as a volunteer consultant on our team? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share with our community of tutors by commenting on this post.

Carole Vinograd Bausell

Carole Vinograd Bausell

 

Carole Vinograd Bausell, Ed.D. is an English language and literacy specialist and Director of Tutoring Programs with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia.

Removing Communication Barriers while Serving My Country of Naturalization

September 2, 2014 at 4:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Renato Jaramillo-Villa EOY AmeriCorps Photos

C. Renato Jaramillo-Villa (bottom left), other photos from his classroom

From an early age, I have always had a passion for teaching and a great interest in learning foreign languages.  I believe that having the skill to teach is a blessing and being able to communicate effectively with people around the world is fascinating.  However, from my own experience, I know how frustrating communication can be between two languages.  Growing up in Colombia, South America, I was introduced to the English language with basic vocabulary from kindergarten on. Then, in high school, I started studying the language formally.  In 2001, my parents and I moved to the United States, and I was able to attend high school in Ohio. However, I did not speak English fluently at that time and felt frustrated by the communication barrier.  I was unable to understand my classmates and my teachers.  Soon, most of my classmates and I communicated with each other, using some kind of “Spanglish” and nonverbal clues.  After having a need to speak the language every day, I finally started expressing my thoughts in English.  Thanks to this wonderful cross-cultural communication experience, I was then inspired to use this desire for teaching and my interest in foreign languages to remove communication barriers between individuals, improve communication among people, and demystify misconceptions between cultures everywhere.

I also feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to move to the United States and pursue a college degree.  Therefore, I have always wanted to serve my country of naturalization: the nation that has made my education possible to pursue.  So what better way to give back to the country than in the way that I enjoy the most: teaching!  I felt that I could give back to the country in an enjoyable way and also gain teaching experience for a developing career as an educator.  Thus, I joined Literacy AmeriCorps back in 2012, served with the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, and taught basic literacy and English as a Second Language (ESL) at DePorres P.L.A.C.E., Inc. to the Hispanic and Haitian communities in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Today, I serve with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia in Falls Church, Virginia, and teach English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to a diverse group of learners from different backgrounds and nationalities.  This new year of service has allowed me to gain further classroom teaching experience and new teaching techniques.  Thanks to this new experience and service opportunity with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, I have gained more confidence in myself and become a more professional instructor of ESOL. In addition, as a second-year AmeriCorps Member, I realize how rewarding the life of a volunteer can be by improving the lives of others in so many positive ways.

C. Renato Jaramillo-Villa, AmeriCorps ESOL Instructor
Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
2855 Annandale Road
Falls Church, VA 22042
www.lcnv.org

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