Help us congratulate Katherine Kane as Literacy Service’s June Volunteer of the Month and celebrate her lovely presence and steadfast determination in helping our students meet their goals. Katherine began volunteering with us in 2018, and she and her service dog, Willi, have been fixtures in the English Language Learning program ever since. Katherine, a hungry learner herself, enjoys tutoring so much that she is currently working on earning a certificate to teach ELL at MATC.
Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Katherine lived in a primarily Spanish speaking neighborhood. Although she spoke English in her home, Katherine spoke Spanish at school, at church, and with friends. Katherine’s upbringing led to her to study Spanish in college and join the Peace Corps in its early years, a period when, she says, the agency “dumped you in a country with a medical kit, a motorcycle, and a helmet.” Katherine was an English as a Second Language teacher in a remote area of northern Sierra Leone, in West Africa. Since English was the nation’s official language, she traveled to villages to give workshops to teachers. These instructors were often working in one-room schoolhouses teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic to children of all ages.
Katherine received her Ph.D. in adult reading. Her focus was not on adult literacy, but how people use reading in the workplace. She was interested in how adults process information, and understand language and inference. She worked as a consultant and technical writer, helping computer programmers define, document, and translate workflow.
One of her LSW students, with whom she is very close, is from Iran. Katherine, who had learned a considerable amount about Islam and the Koran through her life experiences, believes this student was comforted by her tutor’s understanding of Islamic culture and her role as a wife and mother. This in turn has benefited their student-tutor relationship.
As the corona crisis developed, “Katherine was proactive in arranging lessons and materials for her and her student to work on together over the phone, once we learned we would be closed for a while,” said Patrice Vnuk, ELL program director. Her student was nervous about being able to understand Katherine over the phone. Katherine assured her student they would be able to communicate, understanding how difficult it can be to talk on the phone without any verbal cues or visual aids.
Katherine is grateful that they were able to meet over the phone during this time because her student receives little English interaction besides her weekly English lessons. Katherine is committed to being a reliable resource for her students and encourages them to practice English at home as much as possible. Working with her students has reinforced in her how critical it is for students to be speaking English outside of class in multiple settings in order to make significant progress.
Katherine advocates not only for her students, but for LSW as a whole. She frequently tells her friends how much fun tutoring is and how LSW is a great place to go for a few hours every week. Although hesitant about being too preachy, she believes volunteering enhances your life and makes you feel better. Like many of our volunteers, she believes you take away so much more than you contribute. Thank you, Katherine, for your unwavering commitment to your students. We are tremendously grateful to have you be a part of our volunteer team.