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!
When did you start volunteering with us?
You know, I can’t even remember. I’ve been retired for 6 years and I know it was at least 10 years before I retired that I was doing the individual tutoring. So, a long time.
Tell me why you chose to volunteer with Indy Reads.
I love to read. I’m really an addicted reader. It’s my favorite pastime. I hate the idea that anyone can’t read.
You’ve been volunteering for a while; what was the transition like, moving to the new classroom model?
I was very dubious at first. I came to one of the first classes thinking, “Well, maybe I won’t fit in here.” But it has been very smooth. The teachers have been wonderful. The teachers have guided us very well. You know, each teacher is different; they have different styles, and they’re so knowledgeable.
We’ve had different teachers, and they’ve all been wonderful. Really good. We have smaller groups of students to work with; the teacher usually takes the beginning of class with a group portion, and then she gives us something to break into smaller groups. And last year I had the higher level literacy students and they just ran with it — so great! And this year I have the lowest level group. So I’m getting to see different students with different experiences.
Do you feel like you get to interact with more students now than before?
Yes, yes. I liked the one-on-one thing; it was very good and it served its purpose, but I see the value of doing it this way and serving more people. I think that was the whole point of switching. And accounting for our time. It feels good.
Where do you work? What do you do outside of Indy Reads?
My schedule is full enough, because I have these two days where we have 3 hours for this class, and I have a painting class on Wednesday and a colored pencil class on Fridays. And on the weekends I go to movies.
Before retirement, where were you working, what was life like then?
For 34 years I worked at Community Hospital in the psych ward. So I was a clinician and I worked with a lot of troubled people. So, I’m good with people. That taught me.
Could you tell me three things that you enjoy about working with Indy Reads students?
Ahh, the time goes really fast. I’m working with the ELL students, and I have literally toured the world in this last year with the program. We had doctors from China, a lady from Iran — they’re just from everywhere! A lot of the countries. I’m learning the geography of Africa, because we have so many refugees from there. It’s just wonderful. Such an opportunity; I don’t have the money to travel, but this is taking me everywhere I would go.
It sounds like you really get to immerse yourself into another culture.
And different people, yeah. Today we are doing a demonstration on making fufu, which is an African bread dish. And I’ve never heard of that before, but my students are introducing me to it! It’s part of their class to demonstrate something.
Besides fufu, what have students taught you in the classroom?
Oh, gosh… Well, one of the students, we were talking about politics, and one of the students said, “It’s the people not the politics.” And that is such a lesson. It’s the people! If they have a good experience with people, that’s the United States to them. So in many ways, yeah, we are representatives whether we realize it or not.
When you talk about Indy Reads with other people, what do you say?
I love it! You know, I’m very biased — I love working with Indy Reads. And, I hear of other volunteer things and those are good things too ya know. Volunteering is a good thing. This is so actively involved with people, and that’s what I like. And that is what it offers, enormously.
Could you tell me something interesting about yourself?
I still like to go kayaking up at Eagle Creek. I’m going to try and go out at least once or twice more before it gets to cold. I have my own. It’s a small one and it can fit in a Prius. With the seats down, I can get it in, I think it’s about 8 foot, and close the back end.
Besides kayaking, movies, you mentioned you love to read, what is your favorite book, or kind of book to read?
My favorite author is Charles Dickens. And I’m right now, I made a point of catching up on some of the novels I haven’t read. So I’m reading Little Dorrit right now. His language is amazing and it keeps you grounded in the language, that’s really nice.
So do you see that as something you bring into the classroom?
I do! I go to the book sales and I bring books into the class. You know, I went to the last book sale we had [at Indy Reads Books] and got dictionaries, the little pocket dictionaries so I can offer those to the students.
Anything else you would like people to know about volunteering with Indy Reads, and being a tutor here?
If you are at all interested in literature and reading, and concerned about it, I think it’s for you. It’s a great opportunity to get to know other people, to get out of yourself a little bit. I live alone, and I’m retired, and the danger is to get too introverted, ya know? Wrapped up in myself. I think that is why volunteering is so good. It takes you out of yourself.