Joani Harr

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This month we are pleased to introduce Joani Harr, a Literacy Source math teacher and tutor who has been with us since June 2017. Joani is a huge asset to our math program, and draws on her 20 years of experience as a math teacher to deeply connect with our students while making math fun and tangible. She has high expectations of the students! Joani has been very flexible in responding to our needs by switching from tutor to class teacher as needed, and we really appreciate all her work and commitment.

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I was born and raised in Southern Oregon and began college in Ashland, Oregon. Then I transferred to the University of Oregon in Eugene and graduated with a BA in English. A year or so later I got a job teaching English, drama, and PE in a small Oregon town. That lasted 1 year. I then moved to California for a couple of years before moving to Seattle in 1977. I missed the Northwest and I had friends living here. Seattle is definitely my home now.  

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I worked for the Seattle School District doing office work as well as teaching math for 20 years. I retired in 2013 and have enjoyed working on my house and garden, as well as pursuing athletic activities like rowing, kayaking, and biking.  

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

After the 2016 election, I felt a real motivation to get involved in my community. A friend suggested Literacy Source as a good place for me to volunteer and they were certainly right.  

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I love working with people and helping them be more successful, especially with math.  

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

My favorite thing about Literacy Source is the determination I see among the students to better themselves.  

What might people not know about you?

People may not know that I am an avid knitter.

Thank you Joani! 

Justine Kaufmann

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This month we are pleased to feature Justine Kaufmann as our Volunteer Spotlight!

We were delighted that Justine chose Literacy Source to gain her experience in teaching ESOL. She has been co-teaching the ESOL 2-3 classes since joining us in February 2017. Justine’s teaching has gone from strength to strength and she is now leading the ESOL 3 class and training a co-teacher to take her place. Justine will be graduating and moving on to overseas ventures at the end of this term. We really appreciate her staying over a year - a plus for her students!

She answered some questions for us:

Where are you originally from? What brought you here?

I was born and raised in Whitefish, Montana (near Glacier National Park). I then lived in Eugene, Oregon for a few years with a couple months spent in Germany here and there. After completing a TEFL Certificate in Berlin, I came to Seattle in 2015 to continue teaching ESOL, pursue my master’s degree in TESOL, and enjoy more of the Pacific Northwest.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

This June, I will complete my Master’s Degree in TESOL at Seattle University, and then I will be leaving Seattle in July. I am still waiting to see where my next adventure will take me, but I’m hoping that my husband and I will move to either Germany or Switzerland (where my husband is from) either this summer or in the near future so that I can continue teaching ESOL there.

 Justine with her current ESOL class!

Justine with her current ESOL class!

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I love teaching ESOL and was looking for volunteer opportunities to teach and get involved in the Seattle community. I found Literacy Source and really appreciated all the support the organization and people give to the students. It was a great fit!

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I really enjoy working with the students and being a part of this community. I’ve loved getting to know my students, and even when they move on to a different class, I still like to catch them in the halls and chat with them. I have also really learned a lot about teaching and working with this diverse group of students, which I hope to bring with me in my future teaching.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

As I’ve been working with many of the same students over the last year, it has been wonderful seeing how much progress these students have made and continue to make every day. It has been particularly great seeing students who a couple of months ago were very quiet and reserved in class begin to express themselves and create a community together in the classroom.

What might people not know about you?

When I’m not teaching or studying, I can be found surrounded by piles of books and my two cats. And once my studies are over, I hope to get back into studying German and French (and maybe some new languages) and do some more traveling.

Thank you Justine, best of luck for this last term and your transition to your next teaching post!

Tad Deshler

Our volunteer spotlight this month is Tad Deshler. Tad has been tutoring at Literacy Source for over a year now tutoring Prasert, a student from Thailand, in the ESOL 2B-3 class. Working with Tad has helped Prasert build his confidence in English and the writing and spelling work they do together allows Prasert to take the lead and mentor his classmates during literacy activities. He's showed great progress!

Here are some questions we asked Tad:

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I grew up in Los Angeles, but I've lived in Seattle since 1989. I came here to do fisheries work in the Bering Sea, through NOAA's Seattle regional office, and never left.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I've been an environmental consultant for almost 30 years now. I have my own business and work out of my house, which gives me the flexibility to do volunteer work. I plan to work for at least 10 more years, but I'm trying to develop various volunteer practices now so I'll have something fulfilling to do when I retire. When not working, I love to read, travel, play volleyball, kayak, paddleboard, and cheer for our Seattle Sounders. 

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

My wife is a reading teacher and I first heard about LS from her. I like the LS tutoring model of working closely with individuals over long periods of time. I don't have a formal teaching background, but in my scientific career I have done a great deal of training and mentoring, so I thought this would be a good fit for me. 

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I have very much enjoyed getting to know Prasert. I also enjoy the challenge of finding curriculum that is appropriate for him. I try to reinforce what he is doing in the classroom, but I'll also include some exercises and games that go beyond what is happening in class. 

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

I am continually impressed with the commitment of LS students, especially Prasert, to improve their language skills. As a native English speaker, it is easy to forget how many words or spellings don't fit a regular pattern, so it must be quite difficult to learn English well as an adult when you were not taught English in school.  

What might people not know about you?

One of my favorite types of travel is inn-to-inn walking. My wife and I (and sometimes our kids) have done multi-day trips with just a day pack in Marin County (Northern California), Vancouver Island, Scotland (West Highland Way), and we'll be going to the Dolomites in Northern Italy this summer for another trip in this vein. 

Thank you Tad, for your commitment and dedication to working with Prasert.

Michelle Schewe

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This month we are pleased to feature Michelle Schewe as our volunteer spotlight.

Michelle (pictured with her kids Sam and Gabe, and dog Lily) first approached Literacy Source about volunteering in September 2016 as she was very interested in pursuing teaching ESOL. At the time she was a student in the STESL program and working in her job as a librarian at Bellevue College. She had volunteered for four years at the Lake City Library Talk Time so she was well acquainted with our student demographic. Michelle joined Literacy Source as a tutor in early 2017 and then transitioned into the ESOL 4/5 classroom in the summer. Since then she has been co-instructing the class while taking as many trainings as she can, and even stepping up to be trained as a proctor! In the spring Michelle will be joining the citizenship instructional team subbing for one of the teachers in the evenings and then co-instructing the class in the summer.

She answered a few questions for us:

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I spent a summer volunteering for the U.S. Forest Service between my junior and senior years of undergrad. I worked on the Olympic Peninsula, studying the small mammal population. It turns out there are many small animals that live only on the Olympic Peninsula and nowhere else on Earth! I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest that summer. Years later my husband was offered a job at the University of Washington, so we moved out here. We absolutely love Seattle and are so happy to be raising our kids here.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I have been a librarian for the past 18 years. Right now I work at two community colleges, teaching students how to do research. I enjoy the work, but I am ready for a career change. This past fall I finished a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). I have been putting into practice what I learned by co-teaching an ESOL class here at Literacy Source. I hope to one day teach English in another country.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I chose to volunteer at Literacy Source because I wanted to work and support non-native English speakers in my community. I am delighted that LS offers the opportunity to volunteer as a classroom teacher.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

My favorite part of volunteering at Literacy Source is getting to know my students. It is energizing to work with people so motivated to learn. I also enjoy working with the LS staff because everyone is committed to supporting the students.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

Before I began teaching the ESOL 4-5 class last July, I visited the class. I wanted to see how the previous teacher ran her class and I wanted to meet the students. I was really nervous walking in the first night because everything was new to me and I wasn’t sure if the students would like me. The teacher introduced me to the class and said I would be their new teacher in the summer. All of the students were gracious and welcomed me. The most vocal student, Sam Peña, said “Michelle, you are very welcome here.” I was blown away by the welcoming atmosphere in the room.

Michelle is truly a valuable volunteer, taking the time to vary her experience and really work with the staff to be adaptable and step in as needed. We hope she is also gaining valuable experience and teaching skills as well.  Thank you, Michelle - you have become a much appreciated, integral member of the instructional team!

Mike O'Leary

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This month we are pleased to feature Mike O’Leary as our Volunteer Spotlight.

Mike joined Literacy Source in April 2016 as an ESOL tutor. Since then he has tutored four different students! Mike’s thoughtful and caring approach to his tutoring has been a huge asset in helping his students make progress. He worked with his most recent student to help him transition to the I-BEST program at community college, even going to the college to help him apply and support his transition to the college. 

In addition to tutoring Mike also volunteers with the Talk Times at Central and Fremont libraries. The Talk Time Coordinators say about Mike: “When he first showed up at Fremont Talk Time, the students who had previously worked with him at another location were thrilled to see him here. And he remembered all of them. He always has a smile on his face and enlivens any conversation he is a part of,” and “Mike is genuinely interested in the students' perspectives on life in the United States and he loves to have them compare it to life in their countries of origin. Mike has very thoughtful and observant comments when we debrief. He notices things others don't AND he is willing to go the extra mile not just for the students but to help out the other volunteers as well."  

He answered a few questions for us:

Where are you originally from? What brought you here?

I grew up in Spokane, Washington. In the early ‘80s I moved to Texas for a job and while I was there I met my wife and got married. We spent part of our honeymoon in Seattle. As we were enjoying the city and the Folklife Festival we said to each other, “We should really try to find a way to move here.” My wife finished her PhD in mathematics three years later and found a teaching position at Seattle Pacific University. I was working as a software developer, so of course I had many opportunities to look for work here.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I am in a sort of transition time, in that I retired from software a couple of years ago after working in it for 31 years. I enjoyed doing things like soccer and baseball coaching with my children when they were younger, and now they are young adults whom I am very proud of. Right now I am volunteering at a real mixed bag of non-profit organizations, and I like each of them for various reasons. I think over time I will move toward more tutoring since I love languages and one to one interaction so much.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

When I retired, I spent quite a bit of time wondering where to spend my volunteer hours. I have degrees in computer science and linguistics, which means several things: both in college and at work I spent a good bit of time with non-native English speakers, and I had great fun talking with them about English and learning a few phrases in their native languages; one of the high points of my college career was taking a summer intensive German course before I went to be an exchange student in Germany; and I have learned a lot of abstract, arcane things over the years about language syntax and sound systems, and how to represent them in computer programs. When I retired I decided to put all of the computer stuff behind me and try to apply what I knew to working with people instead. I found Literacy Source through a combination of looking on the web site volunteermatch.org and googling “ESL Seattle." I didn’t know anything about Literacy Source ahead of time, but I went to an orientation meeting and got quite a good impression of the organization, so I signed up to volunteer.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I like the Literacy Source staff so much. I feel very well supported in my tutoring, and the shelves of language materials have provided me with great resources. All of the students I have worked with (four of them now) have been incredibly motivated to go to college or otherwise to improve their work situations, and we have a lot of fun trying out various ways for them to learn the areas of their English knowledge that they want to improve in.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

I think working with such motivated students has been an ongoing highlight for me, as is gradually getting to know each new student, their lives and what they want to do when they learn more English. Each has been different in their composition of skill levels as well as the direction they want to go in their lives, so that variety has also been enjoyable.

What might people not know about you?

I am a musical hack. That is, I enjoy learning about musical instruments and how to play them, but I am not particularly good at playing any of them. I go to the Seattle Mennonite Church, which is across the way from Literacy Source, and I am a member of a folk music group there. Over the years there have been between two and about ten of us, and we sing and play songs in the church three or four times a year.

Thank you Mike for going the extra mile, we really appreciate your commitment and dedication. You are a true asset to Literacy Source and adult learners!

Paula Suarez

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We are pleased to feature Paula as our first volunteer spotlight of the year.

Paula has been volunteering at Literacy Source since September 2014, donating 240 hours in our twice weekly Learning Labs, which focus on teaching computer skills along with the basic skills of writing and learning English. Paula started volunteering in our Fremont location and we were delighted that she followed us to our new Lake City center, taking over the lesson planning for the class when a staff member left. Paula’s graphic design skills have been a great benefit both in her creative lesson plans and in other projects she has stepped up to do, like rendering a beautiful graphic of our new Lake City location and designing some of the colorful signs around the center!

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She answered a few questions for us:

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Brooklyn, where my family is from. My parents brought us from Brooklyn to LA. After many years living in So. Cal. my husband and I decided we really liked the weather in Seattle.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

So far I've had a one-dog life. Not complaining, but I'm very much looking forward to having a multi-dog life. And traveling more.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I'm very interested in what LS is doing and how they are reaching out to the community. We spend our lives learning, it's the most important thing we do. I appreciate that there is a place like LS that offers these learning opportunities to students and volunteers.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?           

Getting to know the people who work and study at LS. I love interacting ith the students, enjoying their observations and humor.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

So many stories in three years! It's a blur - a really nice blur, with lots of laughter.

What might people not know about you?

I’m a huge movie buff – film noir is my favorite, also post-war Italian films; I love all kinds of crazy old movies with monsters in them.

Thank you Paula, we look forward to your continued involvement with Literacy Source.

Linda Mendez

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Linda joined Literacy Source in January 2013 as a tutor for our ABE 1-2 students. Sadly she will be leaving us at the end of the fall term.

Throughout her amazing service of 660 hours, Linda tutored three different students and co-taught the Adult Basic Education (ABE) beginning literacy class. When she interviewed here one of the reasons Linda gave for wanting to volunteer was that she thought her "experience might be useful." The experience Linda brought was 35 years in the Shoreline School District K-8 special education program! This was to prove invaluable to her work with the ABE class of students in helping them advance in learning phonics, word recognition, reading fluency, and computer skills. When our long standing ABE instructor Cheryl moved on, Linda rose to the challenge of leading the class, developing the curriculum and lesson plans and supporting the cohort of tutors working one-on-one with her learners after class.

Linda will be greatly missed by all her students. Her co-instructor Becky Rosenberg had this to say about Linda: "I have learned so much about teaching from Linda, who has brought to LS her vast experience and knowledge from a career in education. I could not have had a better mentor as I began my work with adult learners. She cares about our students' learning and building their confidence, experimenting, and exploring how to give them the best learning environment."

 Linda (top left) with her students Karen and David

Linda (top left) with her students Karen and David

Literacy Source is one of the only schools in King County to offer adult classes to low level native English speakers in basic skills (reading and writing). Volunteers such as Linda with her skills and expertise are rare so we especially want to say thank you for her long and dedicated commitment even when we moved to Lake City - and she was exactly right, her experience has been invaluable!

Best of luck with your next ventures Linda, and from all of us here at Literacy Source, a warm and heartfelt THANK YOU!

Central Library Talk Time Volunteers

 Four of the seven Central Library TT volunteers - from L to R: Maggie Bass, Wayne Holm, Cynthia Putnam, and KiKi Crombie

Four of the seven Central Library TT volunteers - from L to R: Maggie Bass, Wayne Holm, Cynthia Putnam, and KiKi Crombie

Talk Time at the Central Library is a culturally diverse English conversation class supported by a team of seven experienced and friendly volunteers. Each week, the volunteers rotate leading lessons on topics that help participants with daily life in the United States and foster community bonds. The volunteers bring a wealth of knowledge to the Talk Time sessions, and their welcoming spirit, patience, and joy is irreplaceable. Talk Time is successful because of their energy and dedication to the group!

Let’s get to know a little bit about a few volunteers!

Ellen Look

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I have been a Talk Time volunteer for almost five years.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? My favorite lessons are the ones where we engage the participants in a discussion of various aspects of lives in their home countries - food, holidays, hometowns, education, celebrations, etc. Another favorite activity is to ask each participant to write and then to pronounce and lead the group in pronouncing a specific word in their first language. They learn from each other, and I learn from each of them. These topics or activities give every member of the class a chance to be an "expert" even though speaking English is a challenge.

Cynthia Putnam

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I am new to Talk Time. I began volunteering in October 2017 at the Central Library location, participating initially as an observer then as a facilitator of a small group discussion.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? One memorable moment happened at my first Talk Time session. Our small group discussion focused on “getting to know each other” where I learned that in Vietnam, when you first meet someone, it is okay to ask their age and how much money they make. A big “no-no” in the US! But why is it okay in Vietnam? Our group discussed this question but didn’t come up with any clear answers. Since the elderly are treated with special regard and respect in Vietnam, perhaps knowing someone’s age would yield useful information about how to address them in a respectful manner. Likewise, knowing someone’s income may be a clue to their security and value in the workplace, and how much their employer values and cares for them. If someone knows the answer to these questions, please send us an email.

Maggie Bass

How long have you been volunteering with the Talk Time program? I've been a Talk Time volunteer for about nine months.

What is a highlight or memorable moment from your time volunteering with the program? A particular attendee started coming months ago. His English was at a low level. He struggled to understand and to make himself understood, literally throwing up his hands in frustration. I tried to help him whenever he was in my group, and he and his wife sought me out to ask questions. My help sometimes involved mime and drawing as well as language. This past Wednesday, during the mingling activity, this gentleman was doing just that - having a few short conversations with a variety of people. That's a big difference from what he could do when he started. He has widely expanded his ability to communicate in English, and deepened my understanding of the challenges that entails.

Susan Beebe

It is with great fondness and sincere appreciation that we say goodbye to long term Literacy Source volunteer, Susan Beebe. After over 7 dedicated years (nearly 900 hours!) of volunteering in our citizenship program here at Literacy Source, Susan has decided to hang up this riding crop and move on to new ventures in her life. 

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When she first joined Literacy Source in March 2010, Susan said she wanted to volunteer here as she "valued the importance of literacy for self-reliance, and wanted to feel she was helping in a meaningful way."  It is our sincere hope that by becoming a cornerstone in our citizenship program, faithfully returning every year to teach the citizenship class, witnessing numerous students from her class become new US citizens, and pledging allegiance to her country too many times to mention, that Susan achieved her goal.

We are sad to see her go but are so grateful for her commitment over the years, her thoughtful teaching approach, and her care and enthusiasm for helping students succeed in the citizenship program.

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With our heartfelt thanks we wish you all the best Susan, from all of us here at Literacy Source, good luck!

Melissa Lu

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Melissa has been volunteering since June 2016 and has donated 75 hours to Literacy Source as an ESOL tutor! She answered a few questions for us:

Where are you originally from?

Born and raised in Seattle!

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I'm currently a student right now and finishing up my prerequisites for nursing school. 

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I liked the different programs that LS offered students and volunteers. I thought it would be a great way to branch out and try something new. 

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

The students at LS are so wonderful and eager to learn. It's great to be around students that challenge the way you think and are incredibly motivated especially since most work full time jobs and have children!

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

You meet so many different people. It can be difficult to choose a favorite story!

What might people not know about you?

Even though I love meeting new people and being surrounded by people, I am very shy. It's a very strange inner dichotomy to deal with.

Thank you Melissa for all your time and commitment to our learners.

Stephanie Anderson

Literacy Source tutor coordinator at the King County Jail, Liz Wurster, began offering the UW Inner Pipeline Course "Education in the Criminal Justice System" in the fall of 2016. Stephanie started tutoring as a part of this course, but has decided to continue on as a community tutor after graduating from UW. She has worked with five students over the past nine months, moving two of them through all four tests and becoming graduates!  Stephanie has shown a great deal of patience and determination, finding creative ways to break down many of the educational barriers our students experience and connecting with them in a way that really shows results. An applied mathematics major at UW, she is considered our "math guru;" we bring her in for students that are struggling to pass the math as their final test, and she gets the job done! She took the time to answer some of our questions:

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I'm from Tacoma and moved up to Seattle to attend the University of Washington.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I just graduated with a degree in Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences and am working towards a job where I can apply this math and computer science background.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I discovered the opportunity of tutoring at KCCF because I needed a couple more credits for school and it was being offered for credit as a UW class through the Pipeline Project. However the reason I decided to do it was because I knew it would be such a unique experience that I wouldn't get anywhere else and would be much more enriching that another lecture style class. I've enjoyed it so much though that even though I'm not getting credit for it I've continued on as a volunteer.

What do you like about volunteering at KCCF?

I like that the work we're doing is actually making a difference in people's lives. On the rare occasion that you have a student complete all four sections of the GED, it is incredibly rewarding. For someone to go from not being a high school graduate to having their GED, that does wonders for their future because it opens up so many more possibilities for them.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at KCCF?

One of my highlights from volunteering at KCCF was a conversation I had with one of my students. He was one of the two students I have worked with that passed every section of the GED. One day he started asking me about computer science and how that related to math. It turned into a conversation about his goals for the future and how he wanted to attend college when he got released. As a tutor, you have to be careful about the kind of conversations you have with the inmates, but this was the most genuine conversation I had with any of my students and it was a good reminder for both of us that obtaining a GED is a significant accomplishment that can positively impact a person's future, if they continue to work hard.

What might people not know about you?

I love to play volleyball, flag football and ultimate frisbee, as well as spend time with family and friends.

Evening Office Managers

If you've visited the Lake City Learning Center at night, chances are you've met one or more of our amazing volunteer Evening Office Managers (EOMs) working at the front desk! EOMs are an indispensable part of Literacy Source - without them, we would not be able to keep the center open at night. They greet students and volunteers, answer the phone, complete important administrative and cleaning tasks, and help close the center at night.

Let's get to know a little bit about each volunteer:

 

Susan Arnett: Mondays since April 2017

What brought you to Literacy Source? I was looking for an opportunity to serve in my community that involved helping our immigrant and English-as-a-second-language residents. I’ve lived overseas and know firsthand what it’s like to try and get by in a country where you are still learning the language. Also, I work in communications and I believe that the ability to read/write/understand effectively any language is always beneficial and can open up many opportunities in our lives.

What's your favorite thing to do in Seattle? I grew up in this area and love the trees, the lakes, and even the rain. I enjoy walking my dog in any weather. I also love graphic design, art, reading and discovering new music.

What might people not know about you? My dog was adopted from Iran. Her name is Shabnam, which means “morning dew” in Farsi.

 

Meghann Seiler: Tuesdays since December 2016

What brought you to Literacy Source? I had been looking for a way to become more involved in supporting immigrant populations in Seattle and once I had learned about the many adult education programs offered by Literacy Source, I was excited to contribute in whatever small way I could to this great community. 

What's your favorite thing to do in Seattle? I love a day in Seattle that begins at the farmer's market shopping for fresh produce, and that ends with cooking a large meal for friends and family. This kind of day is great in any weather or season. 

What might people not know about you? My first and middle names were inspired by 1980s romance novel villains, my mom was a huge reader with a good sense of humor, I like to think I have inherited both traits from her! 

 

Joanna Bachmann: Wednesdays since September 2016

What brought you to Literacy Source? I found LS through some neighborhood connections. We just moved to Lake City last year, and I appreciate the group's mission to support the community! Learning together and appreciating everyone's unique story is so valuable!

What's your favorite thing to do in Seattle? Seattle has so much to do - I enjoy gardening because everything grows here. This is so different from my last city, Denver. Seeing everything green and growing is so refreshing... in my garden, in our neighborhoods, and in the mountains. 

What might people not know about you? People may not know I took vocal and improv comedy classes. I'm not an expert at either. But, the classes were such a fun way to have fun and laugh more. 

 

Andrea Ondrušek: Thursdays since December 2016

What brought you to Literacy Source? When I came to Seattle two and half years ago, I was not able to speak English and I made many mistakes. I was very happy when I found a non-profit organization, Goodwill, that offered ESOL classes for FREE. I studied there for 6 months. One year ago I moved to Lake City and found out that Literacy Source is just two blocks from my house. I got excited to be part of their dedicated work. I said to myself: "Goodwill helped me a lot two years ago and now I have an opportunity to 'pay' it back by volunteering in Literacy Source."   

What's your favorite thing to do in Seattle? I love spending my time on the coast with my husband and our dog Ivy. Since I was born in the Czech Republic, which is located in the middle of Europe, we do not have any sea or bay. We take advantage of Seattle location and spend lots of time on our inflatable boat catching crabs or just picking up oysters in the summer.  

What might people not know about you? I do not like keeping food (e.g. flour) in the original package. I always have to move it to one of my containers. In short, all of my kinds of flour (about 8), all nuts, rice, pasta, quinoa have to be in the glass containers, not in the plastic bag. Even the soap, shower gel, and shampoo have special bottles. I know that it probably sounds crazy but this is my "thing". :)  

EOMs - thank you for the wonderful work that you do, and showing up week after week with smiles on your faces. We couldn't do it without you!    

Mark Taylor

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Where are you originally from, and what brought you here?

I’m originally from Illinois. I was raised and educated in the Chicago area and later moved to Rockford. I had travelled to the NW a number of times and loved the environment and the people. I even preferred the climate, rain and all! So in 1984 I moved here.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I just retired in March from a diverse nonprofit career. I’ve been a lawyer in a legal aid program, an entrepreneur co-founding a small community movie theater, executive director of two youth-serving agencies in Bellingham, field staff supporting western state affiliates of a large national organization, and grants director for the Alliance for Education in Seattle (from which I just retired). On a very part-time basis I continue my small consulting practice helping nonprofits develop systems for calculating and reporting program metrics and tracking funding.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I was moved by reports of increasing numbers of refugees and the challenges they face in camps and resettling in new countries (if they’re able to). I had been a Talk Time volunteer for a while in Bellingham, so it seemed natural to get involved in a similar way in Seattle. While few of my students are refugees per se, they all have very interesting and sometimes hair-raising back stories.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

It gives me a chance to focus on something very different than my usual routine; it gets me outside myself and my to do list. On a practical level, the LS program at the Central Library worked well for me since I worked just a few blocks away and could flex my work hours. The staff is very supportive, accommodating, and appreciative. I heard myself say to someone that it was the best decision I made in 2016! I really enjoy meeting people from so many different countries - so far they include South Sudan, China, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France, Chile, and Iran. I appreciate discussing the cultural differences with the students. Meeting them also motivates me to learn more about the geography and politics of their countries.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

I’ve enjoyed every student I’ve worked with. A particularly enriching experience was working with an Iranian couple who had only been in the U.S. for three weeks when we met. At the end of the quarter, I introduced them to two neighbors of mine who met while they were teaching in Iran in the 1970s before the revolution. They worked there for four years and later married. It’s very meaningful for my former students to meet and develop friendships with Americans who love Iran and are familiar with its rich history, art, and culture. The five of us get together about once a month for dinner.

What might people not know about you?

My parents housed and helped several Vietnamese families resettle after the war in the mid-1970s. I was living away from home, yet the opportunities I had to meet these families and hear their stories made me personally aware of the challenges of immigrating, especially for refugees. On the personal side, I love to bicycle, play tennis, and sit on the front porch gabbing with neighbors. It’s a great place for hearing (and telling) tall tales!

Dave Langton

Dave is our volunteer spotlight of the month, and has taken the time to answer a few questions. He has volunteered as ABE student Sam Griffin's tutor since Literacy Source came to Lake City. He has now moved on to pursue other ambitions, and we're grateful he spent the last year here. We wish Dave a lot of luck in the future!

Where are you originally from? What brought you here?

Originally from Pennsylvania, I moved to Seattle to be with my wife and stepdaughter.

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I've worked and volunteered with individuals and organizations trying to improve access to education, technology, information, and a better quality of life. I'd like to find new ways to keep doing that.

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I liked that Literacy Source is an organization helping adults who don't have the resources currently to continue learning. I wanted to be a part of that. A large percentage of the students are immigrants and refugees so the services provided by Literacy Source feel especially important at this time.

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

The training I received was excellent. The content is full of teaching tips and strategies. The way they teach models the way you'll tutor or teach your student(s). I also enjoyed the experience of tutoring with a student. It was an opportunity to learn more about the student as well as myself.

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

The highlight for me was to see the students' determination to learn. They came to a tutor session with all the responsibilities of the day on their mind and they still managed to focus on their learning. They developed some amazing strategies to navigate life over the years, but they wanted to keep learning in order to improve their skills. It was inspiring to me.

What might people not know about you?

I've been taking piano lessons, which at times feels like a second language. Being a learner (of music) and a tutor (with Literacy Source) - at the same time - has given me a better understanding of encouragement, patience, and the excitement of learning something new.

Dave (right) is pictured above with his tutoring student, Sam.

Kyle Samuels

We're excited to spotlight volunteer Kyle Samuels this month! She's been at Literacy Source for a year - she started out as a beginning ESOL class assistant, and is now tutoring an ESOL student from Morocco. She took the time to answer a few questions:

Where are you originally from? If you’re not from Seattle what brought you here?

I’m originally from Pennsylvania. I moved to Seattle in 1978 after graduating from college with my boyfriend (now husband of 38 years!), who had family and a job prospect in Seattle, and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of this part of the world. 

Please share something of your life so far and what you would like to do in the future.

I retired from practicing law about 6 years ago and have done a variety of different kinds of volunteer work since then, but have enjoyed teaching ESOL most of all. I also do some pro bono immigration law through the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which is a great organization that does such important work in these challenging times. Social justice, including immigrant rights and mental health advocacy, are my passions. 

Why did you choose to volunteer at LS?

I started teaching ESOL beginning learners at Casa Latina in south Seattle but live in the north end of town, so when I heard that LS was moving to Lake City I jumped at the chance to teach closer to home. 

What do you like about volunteering at LS?

I absolutely love getting to know my ESOL 1 students and watch them work hard and gain confidence as their skills grow. They are all so enthusiastic and undaunted by the challenges of learning a new and very difficult language as an adult. 

Any stories or highlights from volunteering at LS?

No one story stands out, but it is always a highlight to celebrate the successes with my students. It’s a great joy to watch.

What might people not know about you?

 My husband and I have one wonderful daughter and two ridiculous dogs. We all enjoy spending time in the mountains. Music and playing the piano are also a big part of my life. 

We are grateful for your passion and dedication to your students, Kyle!

Library Volunteers

Literacy Source’s Lake City Center houses a growing library of over 2,000 books that serves as an important resource for students, volunteers, and staff. Over the years it has become apparent that the card catalog system used to lend books to the Literacy Source community was no longer serving our needs well. With the incredible support of a small group of library volunteers, we are excited to announce that we have completed the transition to an online, automated library catalog and lending system!

Our library volunteers play an important role in helping Literacy Source provide accessible reading materials for our students and instructional resources for our volunteers. Nancy Rauhauser, one of our long-time library volunteers, shared some words about her experience volunteering: “Even though working on the library doesn't put me in direct contact with immigrants much, I like the idea of being around people different than myself. Literacy opens doors for people; I'm happy to make a contribution to that.”

This achievement could not have been accomplished without the amazing effort and dedication of our library volunteers: Nina West, Jolene Vrchota, Nancy Rauhauser, Dave Langton, Jerry Chen, Celia Glover, Haley Erb, and Luise Asif. You can check out the result of their incredible work, our new library catalog, here.

Pictured above: Jolene Vrchota (left) and Nancy Rauhauser (right)