Success Stories

English Idioms “Greek” to Learner from Iran

When Shabnam Javeri moved from Iran to Kelowna, she was fluent enough in English that she could land a job utilizing her degree in Economics, but if people were to say something “cool” to her, “clear out of the blue,” she would have had a “fat chance” of knowing what they were talking about.

Thanks to tutor Alex Carr, she’s getting a “handle” on the strange idioms unique to the English language. “Shabnam is quite characteristic of the people we have doing advanced English. Her vocabulary is excellent for normal conversation but as soon as you get into depth, she misses a lot of words,” said Alex.

While many might just associate Project Literacy with helping those struggling with literacy or English as a Second Language students, one look at the roster of learners Alex works with will tell you otherwise. Out of the ten he currently tutors some are advanced like Shabnam, others are studying English at the intermediate level and one student has a PhD but cannot speak English. He also tutors people in math. “Project Literacy is not only to work on English, but people come to us for math skills as well,” he said.

“Many of the university courses have a math requirement and a lot of people are afraid of math – it’s like they have a math block,” said Alex, “so the problem is to get them over their fear.” One such learner recently wanted to become a teacher but could not meet the math requirements. After working with Alex for a year and a half, she went on to ace her math exam and was admitted into the education program at the university.

Shabnam first learned of Project Literacy through a friend who had also used the services. “I’ve been to other classes before,” she said, but found them to either be too big or not suited to her goals, “but what I found is that here, you can improve on a specific area.”

Alex, who can be found at Project Literacy every day of the week, commented “Sometimes people ask me, why are you doing this for free, but when you see someone say, ‘hey, I get it!’ that’s my reward!”

Conquering Math Multiplies Careers Options
Kristy came to Project Literacy hoping to improve her job prospects. She had dropped out of high school and felt that she was in a dead-end job. Her goal was to pass the General Educational Development (GED) test to provide her with the equivalent of a high school diploma, so she could apply to a college program and move up the employment ladder. Kristy checked out the GED workbooks from the library and came up against a brick wall — Grade 12 Mathematics.

Brooks has a similar story. He also realized he needed his high school diploma to find a better job. He plans to take the GED in January. He was referred to Project Literacy by his Work BC Employment Coordinator.

Both Kristy and Brooks have been in the work force for several years and are representative of many people who come through the doors at Project Literacy. They are looking for a better, more secure future and need that extra help to achieve their career goals. After being assessed by an Educational Coordinator at Project Literacy, Kristy and Brooks were matched with math tutor, Richard Callihan. Richard has been tutoring for three years and is typical of many tutors at Project Literacy in that he is totally dedicated to promoting literacy. He began tutoring after seeing a news program about the organization that stressed the need for math tutors. Before his retirement, Richard had been a surveyor. In addition to his technical qualifications, he understood the importance of the second chance.

He had dropped out of high school himself and he soon realized that in order to provide for his family he needed a high school diploma so he could qualify for post-secondary education.

Kristy and Brooks personify the reason Richard tutors. He spends two hours twice a week with each one and lives for that moment when he sees the light go on and knows “they get it!”

Both learners stress that they could not do the GED without Richard’s help and encouragement. They are highly motivated and work hard but both say they would probably have given up if they were trying to do the program on their own.

And, that is what Project Literacy does. By providing free, one-on-one tutoring in all areas of literacy, it provides the opportunity to adults to take a step up the ladder to a better life.