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Gift of language

English language classes enrich lives of both students and teachers

Created date

July 24th, 2012

For years, people living at Linden Ponds have found ways to teach one another in formal and informal settings, but through a new program, those volunteers have begun teaching some of the community s staff. From planning through the eight-week pilot and now ongoing program, English as a Second Language (ESL) for employees has evolved as a successful collaboration between people who live and work at Linden Ponds. The community is the residents and the staff, so anything that we do that makes them a community is what we re looking for, says Barbara Durland, who lives at Linden Ponds and coordinates the program.

Planets align

Barbara and fellow community member Betsy Bishop brought the idea for the program to Linden Ponds administration at different times. Barbara had seen a similar, successful program at MIT, and both she and Betsy saw an opportunity in their community to help non-native English speakers advance their careers. The planets just lined up, Barbara says. It all came together shortly after Jackie Scungio arrived late last year as the community s director of human resources. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet a great group of residents early on, Scungio says. We have such an amazing group of residents at Linden Ponds. As part of a small planning committee, including Jennifer Nolan in the Linden Ponds human resources department and residents Cecile Arnold and Ann O Malley, the program s leaders connected volunteer teachers with employees looking to improve their English skills. They all speak English, but some of them need help with their verbal skills, some of them need help with their writing skills, and any improvement they can make in their skills helps them to be promotable in the workforce, Betsy says.

Gifts for all

Since the students were at such different levels and with varying needs, the committee opted for one-on-one tutoring in 30- or 60-minute weekly meetings. Nine pairs of students and teachers were matched for the pilot program this spring. Previous teaching experience wasn t a requirement for resident teachers, who received training from a local teacher. The matches were a resounding success, both in early language improvements and relationship building. It s exciting to see somebody pick things up and light bulbs go on in their head, says Cecile, one of the original organizers and teachers. The pilot program culminated in celebratory evaluation sessions, bringing together both students and teachers in a testament to the relationships they had formed. They re best buddies, Barbara says. Both the employees and the tutors came to the celebration, and they all just couldn t say enough good about the program and their relationship with the tutors and the tutors with the employees. The program is set to continue with feedback from the pilot evaluations and efforts to recruit new teachers and students while previous partnerships continue. Betsy Bishop will be available for tutorial to help new tutors get started. She will also provide monthly round table discussions with tutors for ongoing training and exchange of ideas. I think for Linden Ponds the one-on-one is such a gift for all of us, Betsy says. My student is a very quiet woman; now, if I m ahead of her in the hallway, she ll call my name. She would never have done that before. It certainly enriches my life at Linden Ponds.