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Posted on Dec 4, 2014

From student to teacher: Orchard manager teaches English classes to employees

For Washington Fruit’s Alfredo Reyes, teaching English classes to his co-workers is personal. At one time, it was Reyes who was the student.

“I could speak well but needed some writing and grammar help in order to get my GED and go to college,” he said.

Reyes turned to the Literacy Council of Chelan and Douglas Counties to brush up on his English skills. The council’s free classes allowed him to eventually earn an associate degree from Wenatchee Valley College.

After graduating, Reyes went from student to teacher, volunteering with the Literacy Council by first assisting his former tutor with classes and eventually taking on classes of his own.

“It’s great,” he said of helping others. “You can really measure how you impact another person’s life.”

When Reyes started working for Washington Fruit two years ago as an orchard manager, he approached the company about offering the English literacy classes to his employees.

“They thought it was phenomenal,” he said. “The company is really into education but didn’t know where to go to get started. So they were very excited to hear about the Literacy Council.”

With their support, Reyes started offering classes at Quail Ranch outside George, where he currently has 10 students. Antonio Briceno is one of Reyes’ students.

“I am learning a lot,” Briceno said. “I understand a lot, but I need to practice and be more confident. It’s exciting to get better.”

The classes also are an opportunity to give back to the employees, Reyes said.

“It is a great resource to offer our employees,” he said. “It’s a way to pay them back for all the hard work they do for us. It shows that we care about them on a personal level.”

Last year, the Literacy Council also offered an English literacy class at Quincy Foods; however, because of difficulty finding tutors, the class only ran 16 sessions instead of the usual 24. The Literacy Council would like to offer more English classes at Quincy Foods starting in January, but it needs at least three more volunteer tutors, volunteer coordinator Kay Loeffler said.

“Volunteers need to be 18 and speak English well, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a grammarian,” Loeffler said.

The Literacy Council offers tutors free all-day training and curriculum materials. Tutors are asked to commit to teaching three hours a week, usually two 90-minute classes, for three months.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community, and it is a happy place to volunteer,” Loeffler said. “It isn’t difficult and the students really appreciate it.”

While the tutors are given a framework for the class, instruction is student driven. Students may want help communicating with their child’s teachers or doctor, filling out an application, or learning on-the-job safety or agricultural terms.

Students are able to put what they learn into practice on the job, which helps them learn even faster, Reyes said. The classes are kept small, typically between six to eight students, so students all have a chance to practice.

The Literacy Council offers free testing to students to determine their starting level and to measure their progress every 45 hours of instruction. The organization is grant-funded and depends on volunteer tutors such as Reyes, Loeffler said.

Anyone interested in more information or becoming a volunteer tutor can contact the Literacy Council of Chelan and Douglas Counties at 682-6966. Or visit www.literacycouncilcd.org

 

— By Rebecca Young, QVPR contributor

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