Volunteer Spotlight – King Stablein

December 29th, 2016
Meet King, one of LCMC’s dedicated volunteer ESL tutors!

What motivated or inspired you to become an LCMC tutor?
My wife, Kathryn Winsberg, has been an LCMC tutor for several years, and I saw the satisfaction she was deriving from tutoring her first student, who passed her citizenship exam after working with Kathryn for a while.  In addition, I have always been involved in teaching, mentoring, and coaching in my professional life, and I really enjoy helping others to achieve whatever goals they have, especially if I can help them improve their quality of life.

How long have you been a tutor?
I have been a tutor for a little over a year.  I am still working with my original student, and about two months ago I was given a second student.  However, my second student has just returned to her home country to get married, so our time together was limited.

What advice could I give to future LCMC volunteer tutors?
Having only been a tutor for a little over a year, I don’t presume to have any magic words of advice for  future tutors.  I do think that tutors need to expect that the first few sessions with a new student can be discouraging and difficult and that the new tutor should not allow himself/herself to despair early on.  If you form a connection with your student over the first few sessions, communicating the material to the student will start to be easier and more satisfying.  I also believe strongly in serious preparation prior to every session, especially during the early going.  I script out for myself what things we need to cover, and in what order, for every class, and then I look over the agenda to make sure there is a good mix of review and new material to keep the student interested.  Finally, laugh with the student and have fun with him/her, as long as you have a good connection so that the student thoroughly understands that you are laughing with him/her, not at them.  You need some humor to break the seriousness of this difficult effort to learn English.

What is your favorite aspect of tutoring?  
I love the teamwork involved in the commitment for the student to learn English, and the connection between teacher and student that allows the student to achieve his/her goals.  I also love the joy that I can see on my student’s face when she grasps some structure, concept, or pronunciation with which she has been struggling for a while.

What are some obstacles that you face as a tutor?
When Davis Library closed, I had to find a new place to meet with my student.  I approached a church in the same neighborhood, and they graciously allowed us to use their facilities for classes even though they had not done this before.  So finding a mutually accessible place to meet has been an obstacle at times.  Scheduling around the student’s work schedule and my volunteer schedule has also been a challenge in the cases of both my students.  However, we have been able to make it work.

In terms of the teaching, I came to the realization early on that there are many abstract words that are not easy for me to communicate to the beginning student.  This realization has forced me to grow my communication skills so that I can better explain the meaning of the words in ways that the student can understand.  I find that I need to be less self-conscious in using gestures and acting out an idea such that my student can follow the meaning go the word under study.

How has being an LCMC tutor impacted your life?
Trying to communicate the English language to a beginning student has forced me to step up my game in terms of my communication skills, and has made me more conscious of how to communicate with all the people around me.  It’s been a real growth experience in that sense.  I have made two very good friends through the teacher-student connection, and finally, I have been inspired by the courage and dedication of my students as they tackle the difficult task of learning English.  At the beginning, in particular, they have to deal with self-consciousness and embarrassment as they try to wrestle with this alien language.  They don’t give up; they rise to the challenge, and it is my privilege to get to be part of their growing success story.