Nearly every week for more than a decade Mike Wood has helped English language learners become more comfortable with their skills. He’s worked with people from five out of seven continents, spanning all ages, backgrounds, and fluency levels. “I like to be involved in anything international,” he says, “When you meet folks from all corners of the world, it’s pretty exciting.”
Most recently, he’s volunteered with the advanced class, working with a fellow volunteer to plan lessons around topics like word choice, grammar, dictation, and cadence for people with a good grasp of the language but who want to speak more naturally. “The advanced class is largely conversation, expanding [students’] ability to use English in a colorful and interesting way.”
Wood has also worked with the Beginners course and admits that while it’s more challenging, “It has the most immediate rewards. Hearing their stories, seeing them improve, like the first time they use a turn of phrase correctly, is so wonderful.”
The Library runs four ELL courses total each trimester – two beginner and two advanced, each with an option for virtual or in-person. The waitlist of interested students continues to grow, so more volunteers like Wood are urgently needed to keep pace with demand. The weekly classes are an hour and a half, with some additional time set aside during the week for lesson planning. Wood would love to see the program grow and praises the Library for its support of volunteers. “It’s not a structured program like others in the area, so it’s low pressure and fun. The Library has great resources for helping with planning – free materials online or support to get materials you need.”
Students like Miranda, a recent online participate, are grateful for the opportunity and boost of confidence. “I feel proud to take classes with you. I have learned a lot. How to pronounce and learned new words. All classes are fun and interesting.”
Wood feels that a successful ELL volunteer should be “a person of goodwill” who is patient and enthusiastic. “This is what makes America interesting,” he shared, “I find that I learn more than I contribute!”
If you would like learn more about volunteer opportunities with the English Language Learner program, visit joco.samaritan.com and search for ELL. Or, call the Library at 913-826-4600 and ask for Amber Bourek-Slater, Volunteer Coordinator.