A year or so ago, when I first heard about an opportunity to volunteer at Blue Ridge Literacy, I jumped at the chance. “That’s my dream job,” I said! I felt so lucky to have been given a chance, and have felt the same way every day I’ve been there. Prior to my first day at BRL, I had no experience teaching English to speakers of other languages, so naturally, I was a little nervous. The first day, I got to be a teacher’s assistant, and the next time, I was thrown into the action, teaching a class of my own!
My experience at BRL is a little different from other volunteers because I work as the liaison between Blue Ridge Literacy and Roanoke College. This means that I’m responsible for helping recruit volunteers, as well as volunteering myself! I love when people ask where I work and I say “I teach English” and they assume I mean a literature class with native speakers. “No,” I say, “I get to teach adults!”
The biggest lesson I’ve learned while working here is that there is so much to be learned from other people, even if they don’t speak your language! The most surprising part for me was that some learners understand English better than I do. Last year, I worked with a woman who had a bachelor’s degree in English. More recently, I worked with an incredibly kind woman from Brazil, who asked me if we could go over how to use the present participle. That night, I spent hours on YouTube teaching myself what a present participle is so I could help her the next time we met.
I’ve absolutely loved every aspect of working at Blue Ridge Literacy. From teaching my own class to working one-on-one with learners, filing folders, or hanging flyers, I’ve learned so much about people and the world around me. I hope to carry my experience at Blue Ridge Literacy with me past college by joining the Peace Corps and getting to do what I love across the world!