It was a pleasure to hear about Lincoln Literacy at the October 12 meeting of Lincoln South Rotary Club. Our speaker was Victoria Welles, Training & Development Manager.
Victoria was born in Russia. She taught English as a foreign language in Russian schools. After moving to Nebraska, she taught Russian in Lincoln schools as a foreign language. And, now she uses both extensively - as a tutor at Lincoln Literacy and an interpreter. She currently teaches at UNL.
She explained the history and evolution of the programs at Lincoln Literacy. When Lincoln Literacy started in 1972, the motto was Each One Teach One. they focused on one-on-one tutoring of English to Lincoln residents.
After Lincoln was designated as a resettlement community in 1990, they started to offer ELL classes. Because of the numbers they provided classroom studies, now 7 days a week, in various locations throughout Lincoln.
She talked about the special relationships that develop between the tutors and the students. And, how the learning goes beyond traditional literacy. She mentioned a couple of examples:
- - a young mother from Iran had a baby girl a few months after arriving in Lincoln. She had many questions that addressed customs and norms such as if she would need to buy only pink clothing for her daughter.
- - another area is with slang - helping people understand sayings such as "break a leg"
Now there is a focus on digital literacy. Adults have limited access to jobs without technology. It is hard for them to understand messages from the schools and teachers. In the Lincoln Public School system, the children are expected to use Chromebooks. Without digital training, the parents are not able to assist the children. And, without an understanding of the need for technology, some may not have WiFi available at home.
So, the focus of Lincoln Literacy programs changed again - now they are providing blended learning to combine basic literacy with technology. The tutors use their phones with the students to help them get comfortable with them.
Lincoln South Rotary Foundation provided a $1,000 grant to Lincoln Literacy to help with a pilot program added to the Family Literacy Activities for Immigrants and Refugees (FLAIR).. This pilot will be to provide Chromebooks for three students. The tutors will go to the homes and help the family logon, set up email and begin to use the Chromebooks. The program will be provided to the family at no cost for 6 months. The tutors will help them with budgeting so that they can safe toward the purchase of a computer. After the 6 month period, then the Chromebooks will be moved to three different students.