Kate Nadolski and Sandra Ramirez, volunteer tutors for the Project CARE at Morton College, were honored with an Outstanding Tutor award on April 8, 2017 at the 26th Annual On the Road to Literacy Conference. The awards were conferred by Literacy Volunteers of Illinois and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Literacy. Literacy Volunteers of Illinois (LVI) is an organization that is committed to developing and supporting volunteer literacy programs that help adults, families and out-of-school teens increase their literacy skills.
Kate Nadolski has been tutoring for Project CARE for over 2 years. She always makes sure to take each individual student into consideration when writing her lesson plans. Kate considers all of her students’ learning styles and adjusts her lesson plans for both her one-on-one tutoring as well as her small group. By individualizing her teaching styles, she is more easily able to put herself in her students’ shoes and therefore better help them. Throughout the course of 2016, Kate volunteered 55 hours with Project CARE, helping 10 students in both English Language Acquisition (ELA) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs.
Kate always encourages her adult learners to be patient with themselves because learning a new language and advancing this knowledge take time. The volunteer explains her tutoring philosophy, "That is what tutoring can do: by providing patience, kindness, unwavering encouragement and with a sense of humor, a tutor connects to an individual needing help and shows him or her that achievement is possible." Kate teaches students to understand that progress requires a constant practice. She emphasizes the importance of speaking English even if a student is on a very basic level. She believes that adult learners think that they know less than they actually do. Students often hesitate to use English in a conversation because they do not want to make a mistake. Kate explains to her tutees that mistakes are a part of the learning progress. She encourages students to come out of their comfort zone and pressure themselves to use new vocabulary as well as apply new grammatical rules. The tutor uses constructive criticism and provides a plenty of examples to illustrate the language theory. Kate allows for a significant practice time, which gradually makes students more comfortable with the new material.
In nominating Sandra Ramirez for the Award, Irina Cline of Project CARE states that Sandra is an “exceptional group tutor.” Sandra is currently leading a small High Beginning level ELA group at Project CARE. Tutoring a multi-level group, Sandra selects a variety of activities that are challenging for all of her students. While working on a reading exercise, higher level students focus on the comprehension strategies and text analysis, while lower level learners practice their vocabulary skills and reading fluency. Sandra encourages more advanced students to mentor their peers and explain vocabulary and grammar that are particularly challenging. The tutor also incorporates a wide range of conversation practice exercises in her lessons. Sandra connects her conversation lessons with the students' prior knowledge and background, which makes adult learners more comfortable with practicing their English skills.
In the 67 hours that Sandra has dedicated to Project CARE in 2016, she has worked with 16 students who have consistently improved on their test scores. Sandra’s care and consideration is evident when you see that she ensures all of her students are actively involved during the group work by being welcoming and encouraging in the classroom. Sandra comments on her volunteer experience, "The main goal as to why I decided to volunteer was because I wanted to build up my resume, but I never expected that it would be such a rewarding experience. I met wonderful people who connected with me on a personal level by sharing their struggles and most deep insecurities.” The tutor helps adult learners build their self-confidence and improve their social skills. The students are grateful that she is always patient and every time encourages them to try harder and harder. Sandra teaches adult learners to never give up on their dreams, even though there are many obstacles along the way.