ESL Tutor and Student Spotlight: Mamadou and Leslie

November 27th, 2017

Leslie, left, and Mamadou, right

ESL Tutor and Student Spotlight on Mamadou and Leslie
If this story inspires you to support the work of LCMC and students like Mamadou, please consider making a Giving Tuesday donation here

“Our community is better for having Mamadou in it.”

Leslie, a Literacy Council of Montgomery County volunteer tutor, does not mince words. “I want to make it clear that more than Mamadou needs the Literacy Council, we need Mamadou in our community. We need more people like him in our communities everywhere. He is a gift.”

Mamadou, originally from Mali, is Leslie’s student of a year and a half, when he finally learned about LCMC from the Gaithersburg Library and immediately came to us for help improving his English. She describes him as someone who helps any stranger he meets, giving them directions, even recommending the best Mexican restaurant in the direction they’re going. “The other day he admonished some boys who were causing trouble in the Square,” she goes on, explaining Mamadou emphasized to the boys that better was expected of them. “He really is a role model.”

Mamadou’s first few years were hard. He says, “I was scared to talk to people. I think, ‘do they know what I’m saying?’ when I try to say something. I did not know how to put a sentence together, to ask what I needed. Now I get my mail and read it! I watch the news and read the newspaper. I am more comfortable, more confident.”

Mamadou recounts his experience adjusting to life in America as Leslie listens proudly to her literacy student

“I was so impressed when I met him,” says Leslie. “He is so intelligent, it’s a joy to be able to give him a vehicle to express that intellect. When he learns something or reads something, he doesn’t just swallow it. He really thinks about it and does his homework on it. Many Americans with great educations aren’t doing as much in this era of ‘fake news.’”

There’s something else his tutoring has helped him accomplish.

“I got to vote for the first time,” Mamadou says, smiling.

Leslie chimes in. “He had a date set he wanted to get his Citizenship by, and as that date got closer, our workload just increased, he was working so hard.”

Those who know him describe Mamadou as a gift to the community

Mamadou says about voting in recent municipal elections, “Before when I saw people not voting, I say, ‘Why?! You must vote!’ I did not understand why they don’t vote if they could.” Now he smiles about getting his “I Voted” sticker. “I put it on the top of my car. Every time I vote I will put the sticker there, and keep them all.”

Mamadou and Leslie have incorporated poetry into their lessons, because, as Leslie says, “we got bored with just plot pretty quickly. Mamadou, even with no formal education in Mali, already understands that words can have several meanings.” They read Rumi and Maya Angelou. Mamadou takes it home to read to his wife.

They spend time on US history, too, as Mamadou cites the Civil War and the treatment of Native Americans as subjects of most interest. “He really digs into what he’s learning and examines it from several perspectives,” Leslie says.

She adds, “We would do well to follow his example.”

If you would like to become a volunteer tutor like Leslie to help learners like Mamadou, please consider attending a Tutor Information Session, for which you can register here. If you cannot commit to tutoring but want to support the work of the Literacy Council and the progress of its students, please consider making a donation here