Volunteer to tutor an adult student

By Mimi Burstein, Special to The Times

Chin Wei Huang (left) with tutor Laura Jenkins.

Library users may have noticed several pairs of adults in the Reference section, deep in quiet conversation, poring over books, laptops, and papers together. In many cases, they are student-tutor pairs, working with the Adult Tutoring program based in the Chester County Library.  The program is a partnership between the library and Chester County OIC, a non-profit organization located in Coatesville, serving Chester County by providing free adult basic literacy education, life skills, and English as a Second Language programs that prepare individuals for employment and economic self-sufficiency. CCOIC is funded entirely by grants and fundraising dollars.

The OIC Adult Tutoring Program depends on volunteer tutors to provide free help to adults who need to work on English language skills, reading, writing, math, or test prep for the GED, TEAS (for nursing school) or TOEFL (test for English as a foreign language). The Adult Tutoring office is located within the library.  Tutors and students are matched based on times available, preferred location (you’ll find pairs working at other public libraries in the county as well), and the tutors’ preference for level of student.

The Adult Tutoring program has been operating for over 20 years, and strives to match students with tutors who are motivated to develop individualized approaches for their student. Laura Jenkins, a tutor who has been with the program for over five years and has worked with several ESL students, is currently working with Chin Wei Huang, a woman from Taiwan who recently passed her citizenship test. Chin Wei’s main focus now is on improving her conversational abilities. A skilled baker and cake decorator, she is now starting a home-based business and says that Laura is working with her on the vocabulary and topics specific to her needs as a budding entrepreneur. As for Laura, she finds that tutoring ESL students is a learning experience for her, allowing her to “see our language and culture through the eyes of others.”

At present, there is a great need for tutors of ESL and adult education. Tutors (and students) are asked to make a commitment to work together for one year, meeting for 12 hours a month.  No previous teaching experience is necessary, although tutors are required by state funders to have a four year college degree. Online training for tutors is provided through the PA Department of Education and can be completed at home at the tutor’s convenience before tutoring begins. The Chester County Library also has a well-stocked collection of texts and study guides available for tutors and students for extended borrowing periods to support a wide range of educational goals.

The Adult Tutoring office encourages anyone who is interested in, or even just intrigued by, the possibility of volunteering as a tutor to learn more by calling or visiting.  To inquire or make an appointment please contact us at 610-280-2605 or 610-280-2618, drikess@cc-oic.org. Walk-ins are also welcome when available. Just let the Reference Librarian know that you would like more information about tutoring and a spontaneous visit may very well be possible.

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