Myrtle Lewin is a retired Agnes Scott mathematics professor, advocate for all things social justice, and just about the cheeriest person you’ll ever meet. It’s no wonder why the room lights up when she walks in: Her natural positive attitude is exactly what drew us to name her as our Volunteer of the Month!
Myrtle’s interest in education is one of the driving forces behind her involvement with English at Home. The family she serves has a daughter with a “ferocious appetite for books.” In response, Myrtle has mobilized friends and families to donate many early learning books to our growing English at Home library – and to the growing minds of her mentee’s children.
Recently, one of her mentee’s children asked Myrtle to call her teacher at school. Myrtle called the teacher for information about one of the children’s report cards. She didn’t stop there: Myrtle and the mother used a dictionary to interpret the notes Myrtle took during the phone call. From that, the mother learned that her child was a strong leader in the classroom!
“Anybody who wants to work with a family will find extraneous ways to support them using their individual background,” Myrtle says. As an immigrant and a daughter of a Jewish refugee, Myrtle finds herself using much more than her education to connect to her service and social justice issues. On a small scale, Myrtle has found that similarities in Hebrew and Arabic make teaching English a bit easier. On a larger scale, Myrtle ran her own ESL school for refugees and immigrants from former USSR. Her diverse background lets her “include subtle multicultural exposure” to those with whom she has volunteered.
Myrtle’s favorite memory from our English at Home program is when one of the children she volunteers with gave her a thank you card. On it, the girl drew Myrtle holding her little sister and all three of the older kids. She wrote: “Thank you for learning my mom English.” Myrtle collects and cherishes heart-warming memories such as this.
Myrtle’s advice for getting engaged with us is simple: We all benefit from community as it helps us appreciate the deep humanity in everyone.”