By Dawn M Chiossi
Going on since February of this year, Hackettstown’s Heath Village inspires their staff with its English Language Program.
This program is a class format, an offshoot of the Adult English Language Tutoring Program sponsored by the Literacy New Jersey Sussex Branch. This program is for any adult in Sussex or Warren Counties, who would like to improve their facility with English– making them more comfortable speaking English.
It has been said that education is a great equalizer. It opens doors to everyone; it stirs curiosity, accesses information, and lets the mind ponder, inquire and enjoy.
The English Language Program is spearheaded and run by two-year Heath Village resident, Marguerite Gadel, as well as Susan Sumner. Gadel explains that the program works with the State and Local Literacy New Jersey Organization’s Sussex Branch (a branch that expands to Warren County.)
Gadel herself had been a part of the literacy organization for an impressive 20 years.
Although relatively new, Heath Village’s program is an informal, inclusive one. It focuses mainly on spoken communication, conversational English, and some grammar and spelling. Concentrating on how to be comfortable speaking English, students will learn enough to communicate easily in functional areas such as making appointments or filling out forms. The program seeks to make communications easier and much more fluid, both in work and social situations.
Additionally, the class will make it more enjoyable for students to follow a TV program or read a book. “I want them to really enjoy reading in English,” Gadel shares.
“There’s even some students in the class who are taking their test for citizenship. That’s a big job,” she prides.
Gadel explains that she came up with the idea of starting the program soon after she moved to Heath Village.
Immediately proposing the idea to Heath Village’s CEO to make the program available, and receiving an overwhelmingly positive response, she set to work.
Wanting the English Language Program to be engaging and relatable for the students, the program involves them right away by having them read out loud. “We try to jump on something of interest to the students or go over something from the week before that they had learned,” Gadel explains.
For these students, learning English is not a chore, but a pleasure.
Gadel can’t say enough about her students in general, admiring their determination and hard work ethic. “They come to class completely on their own time. Usually after working a full day. Then they’ll have to go home, take care of their families and do homework. It’s so impressive that they are willing to put in the time and effort to do this,” she enthuses.
They will even find creative ways to learn. For example, Gadel relates that one of her students will watch the news without subtitles to learn what is going on.
For Gadel, just the small act of using her talents to make a difference in the lives of others has created a ripple effect. “I love seeing the students help each other,” she says. “For instance, a student from Mexico will help someone from Colombia. It is wonderful to see that happen. It is thrilling to see them put in so much effort and work so hard to learn.”
Gadel sees with her own eyes how much of an impact the program is making to her students. They are not only learning but enjoying. What’s more, they are sharing that feeling and connection with others. “I remember when the class discovered that Heath Village had a new resident, a lady from England who had been in England’s Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) in World War II,” Gadel shares. “A student had recently read an article to us regarding the R.A.F. Because of that, the class eagerly wanted to talk to this lady and ask her questions. They were so involved, asking about her experiences and how they were different in England as opposed to here in America. It was wonderful.”
The Literacy New Jersey Sussex Branch will be training new volunteers to be tutors beginning in late September. Training for new tutors is offered in the spring and the fall. It is ideal for someone who would like to make a difference, no experience is necessary. Training consists of three in-person meetings interspersed with online training. The first session is especially useful in helping people decide whether or not they would like to do the tutoring. “I would love to encourage some people to train for this great volunteer work. We always have waiting students,” Gadel enthuses.
For further information or details on tutoring, please contact Literacy New Jersey Sussex County Office at 973-300-9444 or by visiting www.literacynj.org