Most people enjoy the occasional breakfast at Grass Valley restaurants, but they rarely imagine the person preparing meals behind those swinging doors.
Few would guess that an experienced local cook, Renè, is also an advanced ESL student.
With the help of his tutor from Partners in English Language Learning (PiELL), a non-profit organization in Nevada City since 1985, Renè’s English skills went from beginner to advanced in six years. Her growing fluency in English has enabled Renè – like dozens of other PiELL students over the decades – to participate more fully in the community.
PiELL’s mission is to help English language learners across the county by providing one-on-one tutoring, which builds friendships and fosters cross-cultural respect and understanding. When Renè arrived in Grass Valley from his family home in Oaxaca, Mexico, staff at the Partners Family Resource Center introduced him to the PiELL program. Renè was paired with his tutor, Bill Ososki, in January 2016.
For the past six years, Renè and Bill have studied together. Renè said her lessons were easy at first, but soon became more and more difficult. Even though Renè works six days a week, he always found time to do his homework and meet Ososki for his weekly lessons.
Renè said that as a boy he was not Oaxaca’s most attentive learner, but Ososki said that Renè is now a dedicated student whose favorite parts of his lessons are learning new vocabulary and mastering new words. confusing everyday idioms, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs.” Renè is fluent in her workplace now, and her English-speaking colleagues praise Renè for her diligence.
Because Renè has a particular interest in history, several times a year Ososki and Renè go on local excursions where Renè learns about the past of the land of gold. Together they hiked Hirschman’s Pond and the Bridgeport Covered Bridge. They visited a photography exhibit at the Arts Center and the underground history of the Empire Mine. A longer trip took Renè to San Francisco and Alcatraz, where Renè saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Renè said quietly, with a shy smile, that one day he would like to show Ososki the archaeological sites of his home country.
PiELL students give many reasons for wanting to improve their English skills, with the main goal being a better life for themselves and their families. Students want to be equipped to deal with day-to-day issues such as parenting responsibilities at school, family medical issues, communicating with employers and customers, and cash transactions while shopping. Renè said her classes helped her avoid getting orders wrong and communicate clearly with her colleagues. He navigates the English-speaking world with confidence. And, while his sister remains his favorite cook and tamales are his favorite dish, Renè’s skill at preparing an American menu is proven by the happy diners in his restaurant.
The process of learning English in a foreign country is often a difficult and scary journey, but volunteer tutors like Ososki are there to help PiELL students achieve their goals. Tutors work with their adult students one-on-one, committing to a minimum of one hour per week at a time and place that is convenient for both tutor and student. PiELL provides tutor mentors and a resource library. To become a tutor, no formal teaching experience is necessary. You just need to be English speaking.
For more information prospective tutors and students can visit the PiELL website at http://www.piell.orgor contact PiELL by phone at 530-265-2116, or email [email protected]. All tutors and students must have received their COVID-19 vaccinations.
PiELL will be hosting a one-day volunteer tutor training in June, so if giving back to our community is on your to-do list, now is the perfect time.
Judi Kreinick is a board member of Partners in English Language Learning