When Sharon, an RN and nursing instructor, retired after 40 years in healthcare, she knew that she wanted to keep busy doing something that would help others and the community. She was always particularly interested in working with people learning English. Sharon first went to UFV to get a TESL certificate before connecting with the CALL program at Abbotsford Community Services (now Access2English) back in 2013. “I felt enthusiastic to try!” she says.
The students Sharon works with keeping her excited. She loves their enthusiasm and commitment to learning. Despite the fact that they’re busy people with a lot going on in their lives, they’re still eager to make time to learn and she’s in awe of their determination. When it comes down to it, Sharon recognizes, “everyone just wants to communicate.”
Everyone just wants to communicate.
Five years ago, Sophie moved here from China. In addition to taking the LINC ESL classes at ACS, she also works with Sharon to improve her conversational English. Sophie shares that she was keen to learn so she could better communicate in everyday situations, like with her neighbours, at the bank or while out shopping.
Tutors and learners are typically “matched” in partnerships that are likely to be a good fit for both, and Sophie and Sharon hit it off right away. Sharon’s son lives in China and she has travelled there, so she has some understanding of the culture and where Sophie has come from. Sophie advises that she feels very comfortable talking to Sharon, not just about learning English but also discussing life in general.
Sophie appreciates that Sharon works hard to be prepared for each tutoring session and really challenges her to improve her English. At the same time, she can express her feelings to her. Sharon has the “keys to open her heart,” Sophie says, and also her mouth! She states that at first, it was like her mouth didn’t know how to move to form the English words. When Sophie first moved to Canada, she was scared to answer the phone. These days, she’s more confident.
Sophie has found that talking with a tutor has been a great way to learn English, especially for people who still speak their first language at home. She even encourages other newcomers to connect with the Access2English program.
In China, Sophie was working in accounting. In Canada, her jobs have included berry picking and teaching Chinese through her church. With Sharon’s encouragement and support, she’s now considering pursuing accounting here in Canada.
For those considering volunteering as an English tutor, Sharon says it’s ideal if you have an interest in helping others and learning about different cultures and countries.
In her experience, the Access2English team has also made becoming a tutor easier because they provide ongoing training, workshops, resources and support. These, she advises, really help to build your interests, gain new ideas and frame your lessons with your English language learner.
Program Coordinator, Paulette Corkum, says Sharon is an amazing volunteer who “is energetic, enthusiastic, professional, caring and well organized.”
As National Volunteer Week draws to a close, we want to say a special thank you to Sharon and our other volunteers who help newcomers like Sophie. Programs like Access2English can’t run without them!