Sharing one’s culture and language with others – Spotlight

Dreaming of foreign shores – Olga Johnson hopes her new career as an English teacher will take her overseas. Meanwhile

BRENDA SCHROEDER/Independent reporter

In April 2010, Olga Johnson decided to get involved with the Stettler Read and Write Program and since then, she has been involved with tutoring adults who are seeking help to learn English. Already busy, working part time as a health care aide at Heritage House and enjoying her gardening, home renovations, bicycling and reading and drawing, Olga’s reason for getting involved is linked to her larger goals: she hopes one day to travel overseas and teach English.

In the last 14 months, she has worked with five people from South Korea and Mexico, working with each group for an hour or two each week. Olga’s patience, listening capability and ability to impart knowledge in small, creative portions help her with each group and each individual, finding out what they need and helping them improve their English language skills.

“At first, when we met, I needed to find out what they knew and what they needed help with. So we reviewed the alphabets, read, wrote, listened and talked to each other. At this point, it wasn’t always easy but we plugged through sometimes having to leave some things unexplained or just to forget about it because either they or I could not understand each other or get our point across. Some material or activity was brought in and things were discussed as they came up. There were lots of conversations. We were just talking back and forth about life in general. Some sessions were spent on filling out government applications, preparing for government exams, or helping out with school or after school activities. There was always something to talk about. Each session was different and hopefully beneficial to them.”

In the fall of 2009, Olga completed her TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate and until she finds the right opportunity overseas, volunteering in Stettler allows her to put her skills to work and to be rewarded for her efforts.

“My most memorable moments from tutoring is after the session, when I am getting in my car and driving home and for the rest of that evening or afternoon I feel elated. I think it is that loving service towards mankind that is so rewarding. There were many times where I felt unprepared and not confident, but I persisted because I wanted the experience. During our sessions the aha moments – where they finally understood the issue at hand – and seeing them work hard and happily were also very memorable. Tutoring allows you to share your life and your language and your Canadian culture with others from another country. It makes you look closer at what you and I as Canadians are really like and what this country of Canada is. It is a wonderful opportunity to share a small part in a foreigner’s vital connection (language) to this place that we live in and to have gained a unique friendship.”

The Stettler Read and Write program is looking for more volunteer tutors for Fall 2011. If you are interested in working with adults who are seeking to build their skills in reading, writing, basic math and English as a second language – please contact (403) 742-2999. Time commitments are flexible and based on what you can provide. The tutor training is 3-4 hours, with development opportunities offered throughout the year.

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