October 1-5 is National Tutoring Week, where education organizations across the country recognize those who help teach learners of all ages. Indy Reads classrooms are built around the support of volunteer tutors, and one of the ways we’ll be celebrating our volunteers this week with a series of volunteer spotlights.
To learn more about volunteering at Indy Reads, email MaryAnna Ferris or visit indyreads.org/volunteer!
Keith is a seasoned Indy Reads volunteer who worked with us in the one-to-one tutoring model and returned to join the Community Classrooms. His experience with literacy and ELL tutoring is an asset to our teachers and students alike. We learned a bit more about what keeps him coming back to support Indy Reads students.
Tell me why you chose to volunteer with Indy Reads. How long have you volunteered with us?
I volunteered as a tutor back in the old days when it was individual tutoring. I think I have probably somewhere in the range of eight years total of tutoring. I really see a great deal of value in tutoring, whether it’s with immigrants learning English or getting people up to a proficient reading level.
You moved from one-on-one literacy tutoring to tutoring with ELL students in the new Community Classrooms model. How is it different from what you were doing before?
I took a couple years break and came back and volunteered in the English Language Learning program. It’s actually far more enjoyable. I’m finding that I’m learning a lot about other cultures. I’m really pleased with a lot of the experiences I’ve had with some of the students I’ve met and worked with.
Tell me three things you enjoy about working with students. You’ve mentioned that you have learned a lot about other cultures, but what else?
I have always had a very strong belief that we need to know as much as possible about government, about our country and be involved in all of that. And in talking and working with some of the immigrant students that we have, I hope I’m helping them learn a little bit more about our country.
What have students taught you in the classroom?
I think I’m gaining a deeper appreciation for living in this country through all of this as well. And I hope I’m being a good ambassador for citizenship and so forth.
Are many of the students you work with at the Excel Center seeking citizenship or going through the process to obtain it?
I’m working with a young lady now who is already a citizen. Last year I worked with three or four who wanted to pursue citizenship. One of them knew an amazing amount because she had acted as the question reader for her parents, so she knew a lot of the questions and she knew what the answers were too.
When you talk about Indy Reads with others, what do you say?
I just tell them I’m truly enjoying the experience and that i recommend it. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually gotten somebody to become a tutor, but I work on it. Several years ago I worked for a manufacturing firm up on the Northwest side, and I talked to a fellow in HR and they actually put my student and I in the employee newsletter one quarter.
That’s awesome! What do you do outside of Indy Reads?
I work for the library. I retired a little over a year ago, I started out part time as a Sunday reference librarian back in 2003. Now I’m a part-time computer lab assistant.
I’m finding that the concept of a free library is completely foreign to most of the students. Most of the students I work with have been from Myanmar, one from Syria, one from Uganda. And I think in most cases, you either pay a fine or a fee somehow for the privilege of using a library, or it just doesn’t exist. So I’ve kind of promoted that in a few cases. Story hour, they have children and taking them to story hour is a whole new concept.
I’d like to see more students using the library and aware of what the library offers for them.
Are there any computer-specific public library programming options offered to the ELL population?
We offer Spanish language computer classes.
Tell me something interesting about yourself.
I was a computer programmer and analyst for a total of 25 years, but before that I got my Bachelor’s degree in English and I taught English for one year. I actually, I have my master’s in library science, I got that in 2012, but I’ve never served as a librarian. But my skills and my experience as a computer programmer kind of came into play working into the computer lab, so it’s a combination of things that’s all working.