Student and Tutor Profiles

We feel you’ll gain better insights into LVA’s work if you understand more about both our students and our volunteer tutors. Of course, every student’s story and every tutor’s background is different, but here are a few representative profiles.

LVA Student & Tutor

LVA Students

Rodney Onnette

Before his LVA tutor taught him how to read his credit card statement and write a check, Rodney was charged $13 every time he spoke to a “live person” to make a payment.

Rodney’s mother couldn’t read or write, which is the single biggest predictor of a child not learning to read well. Nonetheless, Rodney went to high school in Miami through the 11th grade — but when he left, he couldn’t even read on a first grade level. How could he make it that far? “I sat in the back of every class and didn’t cause trouble … I guessed at multiple-choice tests, had friends help me on tests — and I just got passed on from grade to grade.”

Today Rodney is a janitor with two young kids. He works from 2—11 p.m. and is looking for a second job. Before his LVA tutor taught him how to read his credit card statement and write a check, Rodney was charged $13 every time he spoke to a “live person” to make a payment. Now he spends 44¢ for a stamp.

In another area we all take for granted — knowing how to write dates — Rodney knew what happened on September 11, 2001, but he didn’t know September is the ninth month, so he couldn’t understand why everyone referred to the tragedy as 9/11.

He also didn’t realize “Dr.” is the abbreviation for both “doctor” and “drive” in an address. He didn’t grasp how to write numbers above 100.

Now Rodney uses phonics to sound out unfamiliar words … he can write a check for $102.45 … he can fill out a job application … he can write his kids' birthday cards.

Because he was determined enough to come to LVA and ask for a tutor, Rodney is gaining confidence and feeling more in control of his life. He’s setting his sights on a better-paying job — and, for the first time ever, he’s looking forward to the future.

Karen Woods

My tutor taught me how to write my poetry on the computer and how to use punctuation…

When I first came to LVA, I learned the importance of writing things down instead of losing my temper. When I got my tutor, I picked up speed with my reading and I like my homework because it makes me feel like I’m back in school. I love writing poetry, especially about nature, like butterflies, trees, and even bees. My tutor taught me how to write my poetry on the computer and how to use punctuation to make my poetry look and sound nice. Now I use poetry to express my thoughts and feelings.

Young Ju Ahn

Now I can call people on the telephone and communicate with my son’s preschool teachers.

I love my tutor! She brings me books and we work on the vocabulary and then I can e-mail her if I have questions. We practice conversations about everyday activities. She encourages me to try to speak English more with other people, and now I am changing. Now I can call people on the telephone and communicate with my son’s preschool teachers. English is life in America. My tutor has helped me improve my listening, writing, and speaking and now I feel more confident.

If you know an adult living in DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb or Gwinnett County who wants to improve his or her reading skills, please contact Angela Green at Basic.Literacy at lvama.org.

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LVA Volunteer Tutors

Perry Mitchell, Tutor & Basic Literacy Teacher

I’ve found LVA tutoring to be even more rewarding than I imagined.

Perry is recently retired from a 40-year career in advertising and has been working with his LVA student for two years. “We meet once a week for two hours at a library near my student’s apartment,” says Perry. “The full tutor training I got at LVA was very helpful in getting us started, and now — after getting to know my student — I’m comfortable in coming up with specific reading skills for us to work on.”

Perry uses a workbook from the LVA library that features adult, real-life simple stories — situations such as getting a new apartment — that his student can relate to. “I’ve developed a real liking and admiration for my student,” explains Perry, “and to be honest, I think almost every LVA tutor becomes kind of a life coach — I’ve taught my student how to write checks, how to tell junk mail from bills … lots of things like that.”

Perry continues, “The best thing about one-on-one tutoring is knowing I’m helping someone improve his life so dramatically — because reading is the key to everything: a better job, better health, helping your kids, you name it. I’ve found LVA tutoring to be even more rewarding than I imagined.”

Gary Montalto, ESOL Teacher

They didn't require any previous teaching experience or foreign language proficiency.

“Eight years ago I was looking to get involved in a meaningful volunteer activity. I wanted to be sure that the little time I had to devote to volunteer activity was for a worthwhile cause and (I'll selfishly admit) gave me personal satisfaction that my volunteer time was truly appreciated.

“Fortunately, I found Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta. They didn't require any previous teaching experience or foreign language proficiency. All they were looking for were people who were sincere about their volunteer commitment, and had a strong desire to help people improve their literacy in the English language.”

Gary has some great advice: “Check out the different types of literacy action programs within the LVA organization and see which one appeals to you the most. I got involved teaching a weekly English conversation class to a great group of adult immigrants, but LVA has many other opportunities for classroom and one-on-one instruction to both native and non-native English speakers.

“LVA has more students wanting help than it has tutors or teachers, so if you're looking to volunteer your time to a worthy organization with a worthwhile mission, look no further than LVA!”

Sylvia Hopkins, Tutor & ESOL Teacher

…the student achieves objectives and goals which result in a better quality of life. I’m glad to be a part of the LVA team.

“Teaching both Basic Literacy and ESOL to adults is exciting, rewarding, and challenging. For the Basic Literacy student to stay motivated requires commitment to self-improvement no matter what happens. Likewise it is a challenge for the English language learner to come to grips with the language skills necessary to move on in his or her new life. At LVA, my task is to help all my students remain focused, and I have to be encouraging when progress gets tough.”

Sylvia adds, “LVA provides opportunities that allow students to achieve objectives and goals which result in a better quality of life. I’m glad to be a part of the LVA team.”

If you’d like to become an LVA volunteer, please contact Kelley Provence at kprovence@literacyaction.org.

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