Volunteer Spotlight: Marisa Fried

October 30th, 2017
photo of Marisa Fried, LCMC Tutor

Marisa Fried, LCMC Tutor

November 2017’s LCMC Volunteer Spotlight is on Marisa Fried!

“I believe literacy education is the best way to a better life,” says Marisa Fried, who began tutoring with LCMC in January 2017.

She remarks on how adult literacy education not only directly helps the adult learners, but helps children learn to read as well. “Children who hear more words per day and whose parents read to them are more likely to do well in school and later in life,” she adds, citing a well-known link between adult literacy and children’s academic success. Moreover, she says, “People who can read and write have access to better jobs, and people who know more than one language have even more to offer and gain as contributors in our diverse society. I am thrilled to be able to help others improve their chances in life the same way education improved mine.”

Volunteering as an ESL tutor to Marie, whose native language is French, Marisa has picked up on some lessons learned she feels strongly about passing on to other tutors. “Listen to your student, give lots of encouragement, and PACE YOUR LESSONS,” she emphasizes.

She offers a specific example. “When I give Marie a word to write, it’s good enough that she spells it correctly. It doesn’t matter that her ‘t’ is the same height as her ‘r.’ I can keep that in mind for another day.” Things so many of us who are native English speakers take for granted and may have long forgotten, like writing our letters on ruled lines in elementary school, don’t necessarily come naturally to ESL learners, even if their native language shares our alphabet.

LCMC often works with ESL learners who not only need to learn to read and write English, but were not highly educated in their home countries, either. “When we first got paired, Marie knew only about seven letters and could only read and write her name and address,” Marisa explains. “Now she knows the whole alphabet, recognizes many common words, and can sound out words! We’re working on sounding out words now, and she is getting better at it all the time.”

Tutoring is not always as easy as Marisa’s progress with Marie makes it sound, though. “The biggest obstacles with tutoring Marie are pronunciation and grammar structures. She has spoken her own version of English for about 15 years now, and it’s incredibly difficult to change speech patterns,” she says. Mentioning one of the hardest obstacles tutors with ESL learners face, she says, “The best way to help her with this is just to give her as many opportunities as possible to converse in English, which is hard since she speaks French at home.”

Many tutors encourage their learners to try one seemingly small goal that can be a huge victory for the student, such as one shopping trip to a name-brand grocery store, rather than where they usually might shop out of comfort for reminders for home, such as a French bakery or Korean grocery. It can be tough to help a student balance the anxiety of culture shock with integration into American culture, but, as Marisa says, “It’s so affirming for both of us when our hard work pays off. My favorite aspect of tutoring is how happy Marie gets when she finally grasps a difficult concept!”

Marisa, furthermore, is not just providing Marie with help in her English learning, but has gained a friend in the process. “I feel like we have a close bond! Marie is always so happy to see me, and seeing her for tutoring always makes my day better. We have an understanding that makes our tutoring sessions productive and fun.”

She adds, “Being an LCMC tutor made me want to keep teaching! I love tutoring Marie, and have become a much better listener and a more creative, confident teacher. I hope I bring these qualities to every area of my life!”

If you are interested in becoming a tutor like Marisa, click here for information on getting trained as a volunteer and paired with a student. If you cannot commit time to volunteering, please consider donating to support our tutoring program to provide training and materials to volunteers and students.