Having been the wife and daughter of a minister, I know from personal experience that churches are filled with wonderful, caring volunteers and have classrooms where adults can be educated. Also knowing our agency is limited in its resources for buildings and staff to provide literacy and High School diploma equivalency education, I began speaking to groups from churches about beginning to offer classes as an affiliate of our program. We pledge to provide training, expertise and when possible, materials. The church is asked to pledge a person to coordinate for eight to ten hours per week. There also needs to be a beginning core group of at least five volunteers to tutor. Having tutoring available twice a week is ideal and churches need to have several classrooms for individual tutoring. Churches will also recruit new students and be assisted by LearningQuest through its website and referral of any students who would be better served in the church program. Two churches are currently providing such a program – Christ Community Church in Modesto and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Turlock. Coming this Fall will be an application process for new churches to provide sites and three will be chosen. The application will ask for the coordinator and a core group of volunteers and the ability to have facilities with classrooms for individual and small group tutoring. Good Shepherd’s program, for example, now has 12 volunteers and 12 students meeting Monday and Thursday nights. They call the program “Learning Matters.” This program was launched one year ago and has shown great success in providing an opportunity for adults to receive individualized attention from caring and committed adults. To learn more, call me at 209-522-0656 ext. 113 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the year comes to an end it is great to look back at all of our accomplishments from both our hardworking students and our staff that has guided them along the way. This year our Family Literacy program served 244 students in Modesto and Riverbank neighborhoods. That is 244 adult students who managed to juggle life, a job, being a parent, and improving themselves by attending our classes. Students in our program came to us because they need to improve their English language skills. A few are here to have the opportunity to get a promotion or a better job, and others do it because they want to be more involved in their children’s education and don’t have the language skills to do it. All of our students set three goals in the beginning of the year which helped our staff customize their instructional plan to cater to our student needs. Some of the goals include; learning the alphabet, sharing a book with their child, helping their children with homework, and learning how to fill out a job application.
Maria Pando, mother of five, shares that she has completed a great accomplishment with us this year. She has been in our program for a few years in hopes to gain the knowledge needed to be involved in her children’s school. She started off volunteering in the classroom and attending PTA meetings, and this year she has taken part in the school site council. She is grateful to have the confidence and skill to participate in the school site council meetings and set a good example for her kids. Many students like Maria have met goals that have been life changing thanks to our services including the 31 of our students that reported getting a job this year.
In addition to teaching our adult students English, we also served 125 of their children ages 3-12. These are the children who don’t really get that extra help at home with their homework, not because their parents don’t want to, but because they just don’t have the language skills to do it. Our childcare staff work with the children on colors, numbers, alphabet recognition, and even Spanish to English translation. The older children also work on developing their math and spelling, and completing their homework. A total of 82% of the children had gains in at least one area of their assessment test. Our goal is to help them be prepared for school when they start, and not be behind once they are enrolled in school. One of our students shared with us that her four-year-old son had no interest in practicing with her the alphabet, shapes and colors, and only wanted to watch TV or play with his toys. After completing the year with us he now finds learning fun and is more excited about starting school in the fall.
Isela Gutierrez is our spotlighted employee this month. Isela is our newest instructor as well as being one of our most versatile and effective. She came to LearningQuest having worked for many years at Parent Institute for Quality Education as an associate director. She was accustomed to teaching adults, but not use to teaching the content for high school equivalency testing. She worked hard and learned what she needed to know to be successful. In her short time here, she already has just shy of eight students who have graduated (one needs to pass only one more test to graduate).
Isela is versatile because she teaches both English and Spanish GED preparation and teaches both general public and incarcerated adults. She also teaches English to inmates in the county jail. When she first started teaching Spanish GED she was challenged by the lack of curriculum. There were no published materials for the new test, so she had to translate from English materials. “I spent a lot of time on the internet researching materials that were available in Spanish but also used the videos to give me ideas of strategies to help students understand the concepts,” she said. She is just finishing teaching the last of four subjects and is looking forward to repeating the subjects since it won’t be as difficult to prepare this time.
Isela told about one of her students who has her same name, — Isela. This student only finished grade school in Mexico so she had to learn all the math skills of multiplication and division up through algebra and geometry. This student told her in the beginning she was so lost and she doubted she could ever learn it. This student persevered, however, worked on her own, got extra help with tutoring from her instructors and recently passed all her tests for a diploma. In the county jail, Isela had a similar student with a similar lack of skill who kept wanting to quit, but now told her he realizes he can do it, “Because of what you and Hallie (the other instructor) have taught me and the strategies you have showed me, I can now see a different path I can take for myself and my son.” Isela overcame much in her own life by moving with her parents to the United States at age 17 and starting her senior year in a country whose language she could not speak.
Isela said it has surprised her how often students come into the program and don’t believe in themselves until they start doing their homework assignments and then they realize it is possible to learn and to be successful in learning. “If I can make a difference in even one person’s life, then that’s enough for me,” she said.
To celebrate International Literacy Day on September 9, there will be special section in the Modesto Bee with stories of our students who have succeeded in learning to read, getting their diploma and learning English. In the center of this section filled with inspiring stories is a page with names of people and businesses who want to be recognized for their support of literacy. For as little as a $50 donation, your name can be listed. You can be in a level of $1000, $500, $200, $100 or $50. Click here and then the donate now button to donate now and have your name listed with other members of our community who believe literacy is important to a better tomorrow. Just choose 2015 Sign On to literacy in the drop down menu. To see last year’s supplement, click this link.