As a surgeon and GP for 40 years, Don was used to a full schedule. When he retired and moved from Terrace to Abbotsford, he knew he wanted to keep busy. After searching online for local volunteer opportunities, he got in touch with Abbotsford Community Services.
For the last three years, Don has volunteered with our Access2English program, as a tutor to English Language Learners. He typically works with professionals who are looking to polish their conversational English for workplace settings and would like to increase their understanding of nuances like cadence and colloquialisms.
Don’t be scared!
Don typically starts by assigning topics such as Canadian history and current events, to review in advance and discuss during meetings. Soon, however, friendships begin to develop and he tends to connect with English language learners in coffee shops, where there’s opportunity to relax and let the conversation flow more naturally. His students have even started suggesting topics of their own to discuss, such as Korean history. “It’s good two-way learning,” says Don.
In fact, that’s one of the aspects of tutoring with Access2English that Don finds most rewarding; the opportunity to connect with people from different parts of the world and share in the learning experience. While he tutors English, he in turn gets to learn about other countries and experiences. Seeing how much the students benefit from one-on-one tutoring also “adds an extra spark” of enjoyment for Don.
Recently, Don and the Access2English program helped a language learner overcome some challenges that could have prevented him from settling permanently in Canada. Due to his work schedule, the student experienced setbacks with preparing for his language test, which could have ultimately made him unable to qualify for permanent resident status. Time spent working one-on-one with Don and assistance from ACS staff enabled him to prepare for and pass his exam.
For anyone considering volunteering as an English tutor, Don has a message of encouragement. Access2English, he says, is an exciting program to get involved with! He was initially concerned, having no teaching background, but took advantage of the training sessions ACS offers for volunteers in this program and felt they made him better equipped to help others.
Don likes that our Access2English program endeavours to match language learners with tutors who may have some similarities, whether they’re age, gender or interest based. Schedules are also flexible, as tutors and students can meet at times that are mutually agreeable for their lives. In addition, the library and resources that tutors have access to for English language learners means volunteers never struggle to find content to review with students.
“Don’t be scared!” says Don to any potential volunteers. It’s clear he finds connecting with learners to be interesting and fun.
This National Volunteer Week, we’d like to say a big “thank you!” to Don and all our Access2English volunteers. Interested in tutoring someone to help improve their English? Learn more by visiting the program’s webpage.