Connection Takes Many Forms at the English Learning Center

3 ELC volunteers

When we think about how the English Learning Center builds community and connections, we typically think of our students. Our dedicated volunteers are a part of that community, too, and have their own stories of connection to share. The range of classes that we offer gives our students options, and also appeals to a wide range of lifestyles, interests, and priorities among volunteers.



The accessibility of online conversation classes at the ELC help Kenneth contribute his expertise and specialized training to the community. Kenneth has mobility challenges, but online classes make it easier for him to support students seeking extra conversation practice. Previously, Kenneth taught both special education and English as a Second Language classes in a public school system. Now retired, conversation classes help give structure to Kenneth’s day and offer him the opportunity to learn about the different cultures represented by our students: “For me it’s that cross-cultural sharing that is most rewarding.” 



For Kim, a retired Diabetes Educator, online classes at the ELC open the door for her to continue volunteering with a single program and community of students while she splits her time between Minnesota and Arizona. They also helped Kim break out of her routine during the point of the pandemic when she and her husband were closely restricting their time spent in public: “This really has helped me as much as I’ve helped the students because it really got me out of my little world.”


Lan Anh

Online classes make it easy for Lan Anh to gain a different kind of teaching experience while she takes classes 81 miles away at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She experiences the ELC as a place where people “across distances, they can connect.” Lan Anh has experience teaching English in her home country of Vietnam, and teaching high school and college students, but this is her first time teaching adults. As a seasoned English language learner herself, she brings her own strategies to the classroom. Lan Anh prioritizes lots of examples for her students, and using different words that express the same meaning. She appreciates that teaching at the ELC expands her teaching and communication experiences by connecting her with students from a variety of linguistics backgrounds.



Alison, a teacher in one of our evening, in-person classes, taught at the ELC seven years ago. Recently, she moved back to Minnesota and reconnected with our school. As someone who works in a fully remote role, Alison enjoys that volunteering in person gives her a reason to get out of the house. When asked why she returned to our program, she said, “I imagine it’s really hard for people when they get here not being able to speak the language. And there’s so many ways people can get taken advantage of, and, you know, so many opportunities they miss, so it feels like you’re doing something good for the community.”


Our flexible class options offer a variety of avenues for volunteers and students to participate in our learning community. Offering classes in the mornings and evenings, online and in-person not only makes it possible for students to fit learning into their busy schedules, it also makes volunteering accessible for a wide range of people who want to contribute to student successes at the ELC. If you would like to be part of the community at the English Learning Center, click here to learn more about volunteering!