"We've Impacted Each Other's Lives"
Emmalee Anderson has been a tutor with the Literacy Center of West Michigan since July 2018. She first heard about the opportunity during a presentation from the Lieracy Center at her firm, McShane & Bowie. She shared her experiences with her learner, Margoth, in an interview with her literacy coordinator.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?
I am a paralegal with a law firm. I graduated from Grand Valley with a minor in Spanish and always had a love of languages. I also love to bake and that’s something Margoth and I both do. We bring each other treats. I like traveling, too. My husband and I recently went to Italy. I have dual citizenship and a lot of family in Australia.
Why did you decide to become a tutor at the Literacy Center?
I was really feeling that I wanted to give back to my community. I had always wanted to be a translator or something like a French or Spanish teacher. I always felt something with languages. When this opportunity came along, I just felt it was substantial. I wanted to be able to see that impact, and I really wanted to expand my world.
Tell me a bit about Margoth. How has your experience been working with her?
I feel really lucky. We’re similar in age. Both of us grew up in another country up to a certain age. We have some stories we can share about that experience. Margoth has 5 daughters and she is quite busy with that. She was telling me that someone at her work had mentioned her English is really improving. Her listening and understanding has definitely improved!
What is your favorite story or moment with Margoth?
We’ve recently read an article on internet dating that was in the paper. That was a lot of fun talking about something new and it was cute hearing her reactions on that! Right now we are learning about the solar system, and I find it interesting because it’s a different type of learning. It’s a different way of teaching, too.
She’s always really sweet and she’s brought me tamales. We learned the word “patience”, too! We had to work on that because she would say “passion” instead of “patience”. She has it now! She recently said, “Thank you so much for having patience with me.”
How has tutoring impacted your own life?
Well, I think I get more out of it than she does. I think that I feel more connected with my community. You get put in your standard routine of what you’re exposed to daily and tutoring's opened that up more for me. We’ve impacted each other’s lives. I have a lot more appreciation for teachers and my husband is one! I’m starting to learn that process of learning. It’s the way you teach that’s based on how people learn and it’s definitely a skill.
Also, I’ve learned the struggles that immigrants have with having family halfway across the world. I’ve learned the steps they go through in order to be here with their family. Margoth is just so generous too! She will pack suitcases full of clothes and mail them to friends and family. I’ve learned how fortunate I am in my life and how we can all improve in that area and be a little more giving.
What would you say to somebody who is considering tutoring?
I think that you get to build a relationship with someone. I think with the Literacy Center you get set up with really good tools. The Literacy Center of West Michigan has really good resources set up! It’s a great opportunity to be a part of because there’s help and assistance. It’s really rewarding!
If you're interested in becoming a Literacy Center tutor like Emmalee, sign up to attend a brief volunteer orientation online or call (616) 459-5151.