“I believe the English and Citizenship classes really make a difference in the lives of the students. I have developed a growing bond with many of them, and it has been a real pleasure getting to know them. I want to thank all of the students for accepting me and helping this rookie teacher get started.”
The New Year is often a time for reflection. What grounded us last year? What drives us forward into the next? Here at the English Learning Center, one answer especially stands out: our volunteers. As you may know, our classes are taught entirely by volunteers. Without them, school would not be possible.
In fact, as we kick off another semester, 70 wonderful people are taking time out of their busy lives because they believe in the value and empowerment of education, understand the hardships new immigrants face in the United States, and hope to make a difference in the community around them.
Dave Podvin is one of these volunteers! He began teaching advanced English last summer. And while one class a week is admirable in itself, he’s steadily increased his commitment, joining 4 others who teach more than once a week. You can now find him in English, Citizenship, and Reading Circles–and he shows interest in eventually adding math!
What motivates him to do this work? He says, “I believe the English and Citizenship classes really make a difference in the lives of the students. I have developed a growing bond with many of them, and it has been a real pleasure getting to know them on a personal level–their personalities, humor, learning styles, dreams, family, religious practices, etc. I want to thank all of the students for accepting me and helping this rookie teacher get started.”
Dave is no stranger to meaningful work. Before retiring last spring, he spent 30 years at Anoka County Social Services, mostly serving individuals with developmental disabilities. The skills he developed as a social worker clearly show in the classroom. His empathy, patience, and encouragement help our students reach their goals. After his first Citizenship class, one student declared, “He is good teacher. We want him every day!”
But Dave doesn’t just impact our students; they do the same for him. “I have been very humbled by the hardships experienced by many students in their journey to Minnesota. In spite of a difficult past, it is very inspiring that they remain so optimistic, energetic, and persistent in their pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families. I have been so impressed by their sincerity, hard work, and drive. They have helped me be more grateful and appreciative for the blessings in my life, having grown up in the United States.”
Although the semester has already started, we still have openings in our teacher rosters. Take it from Dave: “Being a volunteer teacher is challenging but absolutely worth your time and effort. You will get out of the box a bit, grow a lot, and be a small but important part of the solution.”
Out of our 70 current volunteers, 9 are new, teaching for the first time! No matter your experience, you too can come be a part of this important work!