Price has a long history of working with refugee families in Creston, and in Calgary before she and her husband, Don, retired. In Calgary, her friendship with a refugee family led her to become an English language tutor.
“It was amazing how I got into tutoring because I don’t have a background in teaching, but we did have one our children who had a tutor for her reading, so I kind of learned a lot there,” said Price.
Her first foray came when her friend learned she was losing her job in a hospital laundry as a result of reorganization.
“Her husband asked me if I would take the job of being her tutor,” she recalled.
Only a short time earlier, Don had informed her that their most recent trip to volunteer in Guatemala would have to be their last as they had to focus on finances as he prepared for retirement.
“I said to him, ‘If I can find a little job to make some money, can we go back one more time?’ ”
She initially refused to consider tutoring her friend, even though there was funding available to pay for the work.
“I said ‘No, I don’t have any training,’ and then I went and talked to Don’s secretary, thinking she might be able to do it or recommend someone who could.
“She said, ‘If they are your friends, they trust you, so you will be her best tutor.’ I tutored her through two sessions and I made $2,500. It was perfect. God helped me get back to Guatemala and I was able to give Bonnie her lessons.”
In the process, Price learned she had a passion for working one-on-one with people who need to develop their language skills.
“Tutoring is so much fun and it’s really rewarding. After that I had the confidence.”
She continued in Calgary and then connected with Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy when she and Don moved to Creston, where they also became involved with the Creston Refugee Committee. She had always worked with women and her first CBAL assignment was with a woman.
“And then they paired me with a man and I learned that it’s really fun to teach men — they are so conscientious and it’s been really good working with them,” she laughed.
One of her most rewarding experiences was in working with a Taiwanese man who was not a refugee.
“Taupis worked so hard,” she said. “Now, five years later, if you meet him on the street and talk to him you will hardly hear an accent.”
Price credits CBAL for having an excellent training program for tutors.
“And Linda (Steward, community literacy co-ordinator) is so good about having meetings about the latest stuff that’s available. She treats the volunteers so well — and there are always good snacks while you are there, too! …
“I found some books I really liked and right away she ordered more — she’s been really good that way. They do have some really good resources here.”
Tutoring doesn’t always involve teaching basic language skills, Price said. Recently, she was tutoring one man to get his Food Safe certificate, another for his Canadian citizenship test and a third for his learner’s licence.
“He passed after failing 22 times,” she said of a man who had only been in Canada for six months. “There are no translated materials for Karin, the language he speaks, so it was a real challenge — he just worked and worked and worked at it. I got so tired of teaching words that we don’t use in everyday language. But now I am really up to date on driving laws!”
She is constantly on the lookout for new materials, especially photos to make into flash cards that illustrate words. She sometimes turns those flash cards into playing cards to play Go Fish. She combines language teaching with lessons on manners.
“If you take a card and don’t say thank you, you have to give the card back,” she smiled. “And we get lots of laughs!”
Price said tutoring is rewarding and recommends the work to anyone who likes working with people.
“You don’t have to be a teacher — you just have to love the people you are working with,” she said. “Pretty soon you get so they are part of your family and you are part of their family. It’s been a really good experience. It’s really rewarding.“
Previous Creston Community Literacy Award winners were Kootenay Employment Services (2010), Family Place (2011) and former Creston librarian Ann Day (2012). For more information about CBAL Creston and tutoring opportunities, contact Linda Steward at email@example.com.