Student/Tutor Spotlight: Caiqing and Stevie

October 18th, 2017
Caiqing laughing

Caiqing laughing with her audience after telling a funny story.

This month’s student/tutor spotlight features ESL learner Caiqing and her volunteer tutor, Stevie. 

“My son is 12 years old. He always makes fun of me. He plays tricks on me,” says Caiqing, an ESL learner in LCMC’s tutoring program. She is acting exasperated, but she also cannot hide her amusement. “I ask him to write text messages for me. I have to read the message before he sends it, to be sure he is saying what I ask.” For Caiqing, life in America involves a lot of translating – translating Chinese to English, and back again to check her work.

Caiqing and her tutor, Stevie, have been working together for nearly a year now. Caiqing is originally from China, and moved to the United States with her husband and son several years ago. Like many of our ESL learners, Caiqing had had English lessons at school in China, but, as she illustrates mostly through reenacting what it was like to be in class, most of the students had trouble keeping up. “The teachers go so fast” in China, Caiqing says of her English lessons. “I am in class, and—”

Here she is not sure how to word it. Caiqing is on Skill Book 1, meaning when she first came to LCMC asking for tutoring, her speaking, reading, and writing proficiency with English was extremely limited. She picks up a composition journal and shows us how fast she had to flip through pages to keep up with her English teacher from school. “Then, I find the page, but teacher on the next page!”

Caiqing’s animated exasperation is light-hearted and self-effacing, and her tutor, Stevie, delights in hearing Caiqing’s stories.

“She has such a wonderful sense of humor. She’s being self-effacing, but she has made incredible progress in our time together,” Stevie says, after Caiqing has lamented how she still has trouble with listening comprehension and laughs again at the trouble her son gives her over it. “The fact that she can even review the text messages her son writes for her is a big deal. She could not have done that a year ago.”

Stevie looks at Caiqing

Tutor Stevie listens to her student with pride.

Stevie herself decided years ago that when she could retire, she would dedicate her newfound free time to helping others learn to read and write. The inspiration came while working in the federal government, and a man came to her office to fill out a form. “It became apparent very quickly that he did not know how to read or write,” Stevie explained. “He said things like, ‘Oh, I forgot my glasses,’ or ‘Oh, the text is too tiny,’ or ‘Oh, my hand hurts and so I can’t write the answer.’” Stevie knew then she wanted to help people to no longer hide, and to be able to get the help they needed.

Meanwhile, Stevie and Caiqing have been hard at work toward Caiqing’s next ultimate goals. Working in food services for the Montgomery County Public School system, Caiqing has several coworkers who are also English language learners. She tells us they have all commented on her progress. “I don’t have to ask my boss to repeat so much.” She pauses to clarify with a sheepish grin. “I still have to ask him to repeat, but not every single thing.”

Ultimately, Caiqing says, “I want to learn English so I do my job better, and I get a better job. I want to get my GED and go to American college.” She pauses, and her eye twinkles before admitting with a laugh, “I want to make more money!”

For someone as fun to be around and as industrious a worker as Caiqing, we at LCMC have no doubt she and Stevie will reach those goals. We are so excited to see where her lessons take this spirited, funny, and high-energy woman!

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor like Stevie, click here for upcoming dates on tutor orientation and training. If you cannot volunteer, please consider donating to help us keep our programs running with the materials and training needed to equip tutors and students for success.