Students and teachers at the Center for New Americans rely on the help and support of classroom volunteers. When our classes went online last spring, we had to find innovative ways to bring the volunteers back into the classroom. Volunteers that were used to the traditional classroom have now become efficient and comfortable with the virtual online classroom.
This is the last in a series of three interviews. This week I talked with Volunteer Karen. She has been a volunteer since the 2016.
First, how did you hear about the Center for New Americans?
I learned about the wonderful services provided by Center for New Americans years ago when my church sponsored a refugee family. When I retired in 2016, I was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity. I have always enjoyed meeting people from other cultures, and volunteering as a teacher’s aide for English Language Learners sounded interesting.
Why did you want to get involved?
In January 2016, I started volunteering once a week as a teacher’s aide in a Level 1 class and a Level 3 class. The classroom teachers provide the lesson. As an aide, I help reinforce the teacher’s lesson. I really enjoy it! Sometimes I’m in the larger classroom. At other times, I take a small group of students to review a specific lesson.
What are some of your favorite memories from working with a student/in class?
I especially have enjoyed the following experiences:
- Assisting a student who just sounded out a word and seeing the big smile on their face!
- I love it when a joke is shared and understood even through our language barriers!
- The students call all of us “Teacher.” I can tell it is a term of honor by the way they say it.
How has Covid changed the way you volunteer and how are you adapting?
When the pandemic required moving classes to Zoom, I started volunteering several days a week. I needed something meaningful to do while hunkering down at home. It’s been a lot of fun, and it helped me avoid feeling isolated during the pandemic. I’ve learned more about how to teach English, and I’ve gotten better acquainted with the students and the teachers. I can’t recommend this enough!
What would you say to someone who is thinking about volunteering at CNA?
For me, it feels like an honor to be a small part of an English Language Learners’ journey. I strongly encourage anyone who might be interested to give this a try. The classroom teachers will first ask you to observe, then will give you direction on how to work directly with students. It’s a chance to meet people from other cultures, right here in Sioux Falls. I learn so much. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it allows me to volunteer in a meaningful way.
Want to be a classroom volunteer?
Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103