When Angele Echele, Adult & Families (FFL) Student/Tutor coordinator, first met Irlanda Castellanos her goals were to read, write and speak English better. She had many reasons for improving her English speaking skills; however the main reason was for her job. She would try to speak English with her co-workers instead of Spanish whenever possible. Her desire to develop her English speaking skills goes beyond just practicing at her job, but it is also important during her daily activities.
“Every time we meet, it is a different experience,”says Carla Vargas who tutors Irlanda on a weekly basis. They usually start a tutoring session with what’s currently happening and then the session takes on a life of its own. Carla told me her teaching style is based on, “…how we really speak. This includes both the academic world and the practical world. Sometimes I will use slang words.” Her teaching tools include books or magazines that focus on real life issues or stories. For instance, Carla recently brought in VIA Magazine and they read an article about San Francisco because Irlanda was planning a trip to visit the beautiful city. She learned all kinds of useful information which made her more excited for her upcoming adventure.
There are times during a tutoring session when a tutor can only respond to an answer by saying “because”. I’m sure many tutors have experienced this at one time or another. Carla says, “It’s crazy, sometimes you just don’t have an answer.” The English language can be difficult and explaining how a certain rule applies can be challenging; sometimes we just don’t know. I can relate to this in my own tutoring experiences. When Irlanda has a hard time trying to translate a word from Spanish to English she will say, “Como se dice” (how do you say?). This has been a kind of a joke between them, but since they have been working together for a long time, Carla remarks, “Irlanda has gone months without saying ‘como se dice?’!’” Irlanda doesn’t give up easily. She recently passed her Level I Grammar class at Cañada College and commented on how Carla was instrumental in her success.
I asked Carla why she became a tutor and she replied, “My mother-in-law was Barbara Greenalch and was one of the first volunteers at Project READ. She loved Project READ and had fun with the Trivia Bee; she was my inspiration.” Carla truly loves working with Irlanda as she is always open to new suggestions. Irlanda says, “Carla is a nice person. She is not strict, but funny. I am not nervous or stressed when I work with her. ” Carla became misty eyed in response to Irlanda’s kind words, and it warmed my heart to witness this sincere interaction between tutor and learner.
Loretta Farris is a Project READ volunteer tutor and writes monthly Project READ blogs about our learners, families, volunteers and events . She has been awarded the "Spirit of Project READ Award" along with her learner Evelyn for their commitment to Project READ.