Volunteer of the Month - December
LSW ELL Tutor - March 2020 to present
Student - Mayela B., Waukesha (formerly of Venezuela)
More than ever before, LSW volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of helping students continue their learning in a world turned upside down by COVID-19. So this month, we would like to specially thank a tutor who is doing just that.
Gary Rosenberg joined LSW in March 2020. He is a former professor of Geology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and adjunct professor of Geoscience at UW-Milwaukee. Now retired and living in Milwaukee, he began tutoring Mayela B. just as the pandemic took hold, drastically altering the way tutors and students work together.
Zoom calls from home have now replaced in-person lessons at LSW, but despite the learning curve and disruption to traditional tutoring, Gary’s dedication to teaching his student has stayed the course. Meeting online with her every week has indeed been a big change for both of them. Yet, this new way of tutoring has also taught them that determination, flexibility, and a desire to learn can overcome just about any obstacle.
Mayela moved to the US from Venezuela and now lives with her husband and young son in Waukesha. She gives Gary high marks for helping her with English in this new environment.
“Mr. Gary is an excellent tutor, super responsible, a human being with a great heart, willing to help and clarify all the doubts [I] may have,” she said. “He is a person with a great vocation to teach ... I have learned a lot with him and I feel very good about his classes.”
As for the retired professor, it was a natural choice to volunteer in adult literacy education. We asked him about what volunteering means for him:
Q: How did you decide to volunteer in adult literacy education, specifically ELL? Socialization is a high priority for me in retirement. I do enjoy teaching one-on-one or small groups, and I do enjoy the challenge of speaking another language, though I hasten to state I know the priority here is helping my student learn English. Still, I think my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish does help me communicate with Mayela and helps facilitate mutual understanding. A friend had been tutoring at LSW recently and I had taught at Literacy Services years ago when I first retired, so it was natural for me to resume.
Q: How would you describe your student’s approach to learning and working with you? Mayela is very motivated to learn and has no trouble meeting scheduled classes regularly. She also has a great sense of humor, not least of which is about the mistakes we make with each other's language. She is willing to learn from them, understands when I correct her, and is capable of making progress as a result.
She also has well-defined career interests in finance-related work, which she did in Venezuela, and she is focused on continuing that here. Her husband, John, is also very motivated working two jobs, so they both are working as a team to adjust to the US.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about tutoring English?
I simply enjoy the day-to-day communication and witnessing Mayela's progress.
Q: What do you find challenging during these uncertain times? Distancing is a challenge because I, like everyone else, am social and I would like to meet my student and LSW personnel. A specific problem is avoiding people who deny the necessity of distancing ... but I am a writer and am co-editing two books, so I do distance more than many people usually.
Q: What has the transition been like for you as a tutor from in-person to virtual tutoring? I am surprised that I enjoy it -- more than I expected. As a geology professor in Indiana I was very happy that I was never required to teach an online course, again because I like personal interaction. I still think it is essential and first priority. However, the Burlington English Core platform and I assume Ventures offer graded-level exercises and there are ways to assess progress. When I first taught at LSW years ago, we simply read books together and I was not satisfied with my consequent inability to assess progress satisfactorily.
Thank you Gary for all you do for LSW!