News & Blog

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Cheri Stanard will be honored with the Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award at the Literacy Center's Spellebration event on May 10, 2018. To learn more about the event and purchase tickets, visit www.literacycenterwm.org/spellebration. Current tutors are invited to attend the event at a reduced price. 

Cheri Stanard is the kind of person who finds her own joy by giving of herself to others. Her generous energy has been spellebration logo clearancefelt by the staff and learners at the Literacy Center, and we are eager to recognize her with this year’s Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award. “Cheri is one of the kindest people I know,” says Literacy Coordinator, Katherine Payne. “Her warmth and her unwavering patience positively impact the educational success and social engagement of her learners.”

April 2018 Kelly Perutelli

Q & A with Kelly Perutelli 

Guest Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator) 

Kelly Perutelli is a writer, a social worker, and a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. Since May 2017, Kelly has met each week with her learner, Idalmis, to work on specific goals like conversation skills, workplace literacy, and community involvement. Kelly agreed to share her experiences as a tutor, with the hope of encouraging others to step into this role.

Guest blogger Fritz Crabb worked with Tony Campbell for many years at Heart of West Michigan United Way. In addition to being close friends, the two shared a passion for educating young people in this community. 

When Tony Campbell arrived at Heart of West Michigan United Way, he arrived with the resume, the personality, and theTony Spellebration intelligence to hit the ground running. And he did just that. Tony became a fixture in the non-profit community locally and throughout Michigan, finding ways to connect divergent groups and to get things done.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator, writes about attending last month's TESOL International Convention

During the last week of March, several Literacy Center staff members and instructors attended the TESOL (Teaching TESOL 1 copyEnglish to Speakers of Other Language) 2018 International Convention in Chicago. There were over 6,500 attendees and some 1,000 educational sessions to choose from, so we were able to meet and learn from other English teaching professionals from around the world.

Oxford Picture Dictionary

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

April 2018

We are excited to announce the newest addition to the tutor library: The Oxford Picture Dictionary.

This 288-page paperback resource holds a goldmine of support for vocabulary teaching and language development. With over 4,000 English words and phrases, this dictionary supplies vibrant contextual illustrations that help learners understand the unit themes with bright, engaging artwork.

Mark Peters is the CEO of Butterball Farms, Inc. and the Chair of the Literacy Center's Donor Development committee

Mark PetersLiteracy. Why is it important?  Well, if you are reading this, you may actually take your literacy for granted.  But imagine for a moment that reading this was a matter of life and death. Maybe your own, or maybe that of a loved one. Imagine that this paragraph was the dosage instructions for one of your parent’s heart medicines, and you could not read it.  The reality is that 10-15% of the adult population in West Michigan would not be able understand this paragraph.

 Welcome Newcomers | American Culture

UntitledBlogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor) 

If you and your learner are looking for a book series containing relevant and applicable information about life in the United States, the Welcome Newcomers series might be just what you need.

This series is for beginning level learners who are new to the United States. Each of these short books tackles an aspect of American life, including schools, money, food, and culture. The Literacy Center has stocked many books from this series in the Tutor Library. 

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Stand up for Stand Out

Blogger: Tom Rogers (Literacy Coordinator)

Stand Out is an excellent comprehensive textbook series for an English language learner. The series features textbooks and workbooks at a variety of levels that are appropriate for many learners, and also align with the CASAS testing system.

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Guest blogger: Phil Wittry
Phil is a Senior I.T. Manager and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April of 2017. 

 

I came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan in 2017 after serving as a literacy and GED tutor in Cincinnati. I had grown to love the 1-1 connection in helping students, especially adults, make the leaps to achieve goals for themselves and their families. When I moved to West Michigan, I wanted to do similar volunteering with the Literacy Center.

Navi Gill is an AmeriCorps member who served as a family literacy tutor before becoming a family literacy ELL instructor. 

One of the very first learners I was matched with was a young woman named Sah. Sah came from Burma to the United NaviStates as a refugee after spending many years in a refugee camp. She sought out the services of the Literacy Center because she wanted to improve her English conversation and reading skills in order to be able to help her child succeed in school and to find meaningful work. At first I was admittedly nervous to meet with someone who had overcome so much in their short life, but Sah’s kind demeanor and welcoming smile during our first lesson immediately put any anxieties I had to rest.

Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

Banza Mukalay grew up in Congo, the second largest country in Africa. After attending school for 12 years, he graduated Banzaas a mechanic in 1996. Banza got married after high school and a year later, two major things happened: he and his wife became pregnant with a girl, and a war began.

Banza and his wife escaped the war while his wife was pregnant and hid in a neighboring village. Once the war was over and his home town of Kalemie went through a regime change, Banza’s family moved back home. The peace did not last long, and a new war began in 1998. It was at that point that Banza and his mother, wife, child, brothers, and sisters, fled across Lake Tanganyika into Tanzania.

On November 6, 1998 Banza and his family became refugees and were sent to live in the refugee camp. He would live there for 15 years, and three of his four children would be born in the refugee camp. During that time, he worked as a security guard for World Vision, a social worker for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and was ordained as a pastor by the United Methodist Church. Banza led a church in the refugee camp for two years before finally gaining access to the United States.

Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using The Change Agent in Adult Education

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)Through the Lens of Social Justice copy

In an effort to provide a greater number of resources for our tutors, the Adult Tutoring Program has worked to add new materials to the reference section of our tutor library. One newly added title is “Through the Lens of Social Justice: Using the Change Agent in Adult Education.” This book may be used in tandem with the Change Agent, an adult education newsletter, or independently as a reading resource for learners or a guide for cultural competency in addressing social justice issues.

The three chapters explore social justice as it applies to the adult learner, looking to connect the classroom with the larger community to which our learners contribute. Chapter one explores how social justice issues can be addressed through a learner’s literacy goals. The topics available for reference range from life skills materials to personal narratives, to High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation. Both the life skills materials and the personal narratives are structured for easy use in tutoring sessions, enabling these examples to be directly applied to the lesson. Outlines are given for pre- and post-reading activities, encouraging learners to engage in social issues that affect their daily lives. Final support is provided for learners hoping to engage in civic action to better their communities.

Citizenship: Passing the Test

Blogger: Miranda Buckwald (AmeriCorps Tutor)

 

For any English language learner living in the United States, the Citizenship test is daunting. Every step of the process, IMG 2915 copy copyfrom filling out forms to memorizing 100 civics questions, can be challenging. If your learner is preparing for their citizenship test, the Literacy Center of West Michigan has many resources to help them study and prepare.

Citizenship: Passing the Test is a series of textbooks available in the Tutor Library. This series consists of three books ranging in level from low beginning to intermediate. The first, titled Literacy Skills, is written for low beginning level learners. This book comes with an audio CD and introduces learners to relevant vocabulary through writing, reading and listening activities. Some examples of vocabulary words include flag, president, state, and Washington, D.C. This book is great for learners who are just beginning their literacy studies.

A brief introduction to our newest staff member, Queyonna Hunt

I’m Queyonna Hunt, the new Literacy Coordinator of the Adult Tutoring Program with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. I am writing to introduce myself, and will provide you with all the best tidbits so as not to bore you. So, let's start with a list of all the odd jobs I have had before becoming a Literacy Coordinator.Queyonna

The first job I ever had was a cashier position at Popeye's Chicken n' Biscuit; I was 16-years-old. At 21, I worked at a tattoo parlor with intimidating looking people with the softest hearts. Ink'd Up Tattoos was where I learned not to judge a person by the way they look. I sweated and toiled on a homestay farm in the U.P. and traveled to countless music festivals across the U.S. as a food vendor selling gourmet tacos.

Written by Maria Bacerra, a learner in our Adult Tutoring Program, for our Winter 2018 edition of The Reader

My name is Maria. I’m from Mexico and I came to U.S.A. when I was 19 years old. At that time I had only been married for 1 week.

My dream was to have a family. When I came to the U.S.A. it was so hard for me because everything was new; new people, new country, different traditions and everything new. I missed a lot my family and friends. The time was passing and I accustomed through the years.

 Dancing with Strangers | Stories from Africa

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

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Today we will be examining a stage three book from Oxford Publishing’s award-winning series, Dancing with Strangers: Stories from Africa.

The series has a worldwide reputation for providing learners with an enriching reading experience. The book includes four narrations, a CD for following along, before and after reading activities, and a glossary for vocabulary building.

The four stories presented in the book take readers on rich journeys through vibrant settings with relatable characters. From inside a bar within the bustling streets city of Johannesburg to an uncomfortable seat on a plane back to South Africa; to a dance floor in Tanzania then off to Uganda to read about two strangers brought together by accidents of war. These stories were written by African natives M.G. Vassanji, Jackee Budesta Batanda, Jack Cope, and Mandla Langa, who give an authentic insight into a vast, diverse culture.

Guest Blogger: Anna Roseboro. Anna is a retired educator and has been a tutor with the Adult Tutoring Program since April 2017. She and her learner, Saw-ku, venture through lessons with an excitement that is evident whenever speaking with them. Their work together was recently featured in The Reader where Saw-ku shared his experience as a Burmese refugee.

Anna Roseboro for LCM

Tutoring adults one-on-one is a learning experience. Though I’m a retired teacher of English Language Arts and a former speech coach, tutoring an adult from Myanmar is a challenge for me because I’m so ignorant. Yes, ignorant. Thankfully, the Literacy Center of West Michigan understands that even experienced educators, though passionate about teaching, have much to learn. It’s the reason Literacy Center required me to attend workshops on how to interact learners from an unfamiliar country who neither shares my history or culture, language or alphabet.

Fun With Grammar

Blogger: Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Capture2When we think of grammar, our minds usually wander to the days in our past, stuck in a stuffy classroom in high school where we had to diagram dull sentences. Grammar is one of those skills that is part of the essential building blocks of the English language, and can vary significantly across languages. I really think we take for granted the “ear” we have developed over time, which helps us use, or intentionally not use, the correct grammar when we communicate. For this reason, grammar can be difficult for tutors to teach effectively and in an engaging way.

Azar’s Fun with Grammar is full of fantastic communicative activities to practice various grammar topics. While many of the activities are more geared towards a classroom setting, all lesson plans and worksheets can be adapted to be used in tutoring sessions. The activities are also labeled by proficiency level.

Here is an example of an activity called “Detective”:

Pearson and Penguin Active Readers Series

Blogger: Katherine Payne (Literacy Coordinator)

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With varied topics in both fiction and non-fiction, Pearson and Penguin Active Readers combine short stories, reading activities, and an audiobook into one compact text. Titles range from classic American and British literature to important historical figures and cultural events. Some titles we have stocked in our library are The Secret Garden, Nelson Mandela, The Three Musketeers, and Frankenstein. Each printed reader comes with a CD of the complete audio recording.

Each text begins with pre-reading activities designed to engage a reader’s prior knowledge on the topic, to introduce main characters, and to encourage learners to make simple assumptions about the story. Each chapter has corresponding illustrations to provide context and reinforce a character’s emotions, relationships, or current actions. As many of our workbook series do, these stories highlight new vocabulary and provide definitions at the bottom of each page.

Miranda

Guest Blogger: Miranda Buckwald. Miranda has been part of the Literacy Center of West Michigan and the Adult Tutoring Program as an AmeriCorps member since August 2017. She tutors six English Language Learners and also facilitates our English Conversation Club. 

 As an AmeriCorps member, I serve the Literacy Center as a full-time tutor. This means I have a caseload of learners that I meet with every week and I run an event called Conversation Club.

Working closely with the Adult Tutoring Program has shown me that the best thing we offer learners is flexibility. Since August, I’ve met with learners all over Grand Rapids who have unique backgrounds and goals. I’ve met learners who work full time and learners who are raising families. I’ve met refugees, single-parents, some studying for their driver’s licenses, some working towards citizenship, and others who just want to help their children with homework.

I see these qualities reflected in the individual goals of every learner, and I get to help them work towards these goals. Sometimes, this means meeting twice in one week to study for a citizenship test scheduled the next Tuesday. Other times, it means showing a learner how to text. I’ve learned that every task, big or small, is important to my learners in their everyday lives.

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