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Jim's Towing Service
July 3, 1998     Cape Gazette
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July 3, 1998

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50- CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, July 3- july 9, i9J8 "" .... ::ScHoOL & EDUCATION"':: Sussex tutor suggests giving the gift of literacy English., , i ThoXecently attended a bi- annual I:itercy Action conference in Ohio and she returned even more enthusiastic about tutoring than she was before. And she is determined to get more people involved in helping nonreaders. "I really love tutoring, and the conference gave me a better per- spective of what to do and expect of students, and also what they expect of me," she said. "The con- ference was very inspirational so I want to tell more people and get more people into the program." Thomas, 79, first learned about READ through a class at the Southern Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning. She took a 10- hour course that taught others how to teach, and she has worked with more than half a dozen stu - THOMAS dents since then. Her first students were close to her in age, but had never learned to read. She points out that being a nonreader is a very sensitive thing By Rosanne Pack Reading doesn't always start with ABCs and sounding out con- sonants and vowels. If the student only speaks Korean, a lot of ges- ticulation and pantomime is part of the lesson plan. That's been the experience of reading tutor Betty Thomas and she's found that she can convey quite a message with her hands and expressions. The Millsboro resident has been working for more than two years with the READ program, which is affiliated with Laubach Literacy Action (LLA), and her students have included some who speak no Merrill Lynch donates to Del Tech child development center The Rehoboth Beach office of Merrill Lynch recently donated $1,000 to the Child Develop- ment Center at Delaware Tech in Georgetown. Shown during the presentation of the check are, back row, (l-r) Dan Tidwell, Merrill Lynch; Ann Athey, department chair, Early Childhood Education; Dave Tidwell, Merrill Lynch; Tim Kavel, Owens campus direction. In front are Ash- ley Cannon, Jesse Swanson, and Jessica Widerman, students at Child Development Center; and Lori Ames, staff at Child Development Center. with adults. Making them com- fortable and assurirg? them of con- fidentiality is very:iportant. "To start with, you have to know your student and know what they want," she said. "And you have to like people, I love people and I know I get more out of the experience than the students do. It is so rewarding to see them open up as they learn to read." Thomas worked as a teacher's aide many years ago, but the class- room experience with elementary school children did not prepare her for working with adults, especially those who do not speak English and those who have special needs. She now has three students who are clients at the Easter Seal Reha- bilitation Center in Millsboro. "The Easter Seal students are wonderful. The two girls are younger and they can read and write some. We don't have any- thing like a generation gap; they think I'm great," she said. "One student of mine at the center is a stroke victim, and by being very patient, I have learned that he can read." The tutor said that it was assumed that the gentleman could not read; however, Thomas soon discovered he could make out words if she helped him hold a page up close to his eyes. She eventually learned that there was another key to his reading needs. "He has to hold the page very close to his eyes and focus on just one line at a time," she said. "We actually cover the line above and the line below where he is reading so he can concentrate on just those words." Thomas said it was partly chance that led to the discovery that her student could already read, and then there was experi- mentation with covering the lines. Even the color of paper is a factor in how well he reads. One of her students, a man in his 70s wanted to learn to read and write so he could read the newspa- per, his Bible and write letters to his brother. "Some, you don't know if they can read or not," Thomas said. "One man could hear spelling and say the word, so I knew that he knew more than we expected. "It's exciting, that's what it is, when I make these realizations." The Korean student who spoke no English was a challenge of another type. Thomas said the fact that she speaks very clearly is a help, and then, there are those ges- tures. She did a lot of pointing and pantomiming while she repeated words. "Soon, he could understand me. He would point and say, 'Grass is green. Sky is blue,' "Thomas said. "He went on to earn his English as a Second Language certificate." At the LLA conference, the tutor took a workshop that earned credit toward her Laubach train- er/supervisor certification. She also has taken workshops that dealt specifically with those who have dyslexia. At one of the work- shops, those attending found themselves placed in the role of students and each had jobs to per- form. Thomas and a woman from the Fiji Islands were chosen to be the presenters who opened their ses- sion. The two spent hours prepar- ing charts, planning introductory icebreaker activities and making sure the surroundings in the con- Continued on page 54 Looking elsewhere to appreciate what's at home I received a message via snail mail that my international col- leagues had arrived. Teachers from Russia are spending time this summer studying American cul- ture through a program at the Uni- versity of Delaware. I had agreed to meet them and host them for a weekend. This was to be a real teacher-to-teacher encounter. They could get a look at our cul- ture first-hand, and I could ask the burning question, "What are schools really like in Russia?" While driving to meet them, I had all kinds of thoughts. Much of what I knew about Russia came from negative, bad guy stereo- types perpetuated in movies and the media. Just the night before, our family had rented the video "Air Force One." We took great delight in watching Harrison Ford outsmart a militant group from Kazak4stan. The Russians were SCHOOL JOURNAL involved in the movie as an uneasy ally with the United States, Was my life coming to resembld art? Then there was the apprehen sion of knowing very little abou i Russian culture, but what did I know of it now, since the fall of communism? How stupid I would look to these teachers who were teaching U.S. history and culture! The best I could do to prepare was to call up a geographic map and print it off the computer. I was off. After meeting them. I found the most remarkable thing is how much in common we have with our colleagues across the ocean. I met Vera and Ludmilla from Rus- sia. They are bright and amazingly articulate for having English as their second language. They had just returned from a week in Washington, D.C. For the next six weeks they would live in the U.S. culture and speak mostly English. We settled into a conversation about our students and our schools. They told me that there are very few materials that help Russia. Years ago I read about ?O$of the old information was propagan- da that existed during the Cold War. Vera had her video camera rolling. She planned to take these tapes to show in her classes. Schools in Russia have a very vig- orous set of tests that must be passed in order to get into impor- tant academies. Their curriculum is very difficult, requiring much dedication from the students. Tell the Delaware General Assembly that there are no social promotions in Russia! We agreed that they would take a tour of my schools when they visited. I spoke about computers and the new age that we were entering, the information age. They related that computers cre slow in coming to their schools, when they returned to Russia! Yes, Microsoft, I want to go to Russia today ! Now I'm feeling a lot better about my new-found friends. They are warm, personable, dedicated teachers who happened to be from Russia. Who would have believed that we could form Russian/Amer- ican exchanges and friendships? When they come to visit, I'll give them a slice of the American pie. A little boardwalk, some Grotto's and a walk down the cor- ridors of my 65-year-old school that is wired for the Internet. Sometimes you have to look else- where just to appreciate whatl you have at home. Happy Birthlay, America! i ": i. but they would have a tremendgus Diane Saienni Albanese ts a impact when they were in pe. parent and a teacher in the Cape We reahzed that we would be lle ttenlopen School Dtstrwt arid at to commun"ffiternet "'[dre Techowtl.