March 2019 Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Ray

“Successfully conveying information to a student doesn’t necessarily make someone a good tutor. Heather is great tutor because she is a friend to Shiva. One of my favorite things about Heather is every time I visit them, Shiva is teaching Heather something in Dari.” -Katie, English at Home AmeriCorps member

From the alphabet to medical vocabulary, Heather Ray, a volunteer in our English at Home program, has spent over a hundred hours tutoring Shiva, her student.  As a result, Shiva has become 102% more proficient in speaking and 376% more proficient in reading. In exchange, Heather has begun to learn Dari.

“Shiva and I made a trade—she’s teaching me Dari, and I’m teaching her English. It’s helped both of us see the nuances of learning a different language as adults, and now I understand some of the difficulties that she is facing.”

However, Heather has helped Shiva with much more than just English. While Shiva was pregnant, Heather often accompanied her to doctors’ appointments, using them as an opportunity for learning.

“We did a lot of role playing,” Heather laughed, “I’d tell her to pretend her leg was bleeding and then tell me about it.”

Drawing from her own experience of having medical treatment in a foreign country, Heather taught Shiva new medical vocabulary that she might need during a stay at the hospital or at the ER.

Heather’s success comes, at least in part, from the relationship she has built with Shiva. Rather than acting solely as her tutor, Heather has gotten to know more about Shiva, her children, and her goals.

“We consider each other friends. After our lesson, we’ll just sit and have tea and talk—normal gossip.”

She stresses the importance of getting to know Shiva and tailoring lessons to suit her interests. Heather helped Shiva study for the driver’s test, and she continues to help Shiva with medical vocabulary, especially since Shiva is now considering a career as a medical translator.

When I asked Heather what advice she would give to other English at Home volunteers, she said: “Be partners in learning.”

Are you interested in being an English at Home volunteer with New AP? Come to our next Volunteer Orientation!

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