Melissa Tuason named tutor of the year for 2018 by The Literacy Volunteers of Illinois (LVI) has been involved with South-East Asia Center for five years. “Melissa possesses exceptional initiative and dedication to Adult English Language Learners,” writes her nominator, Joe Cole.
After moving to Chicago in 2010, Melissa noticed while visiting markets and other places, that there appeared to be a large population of individuals with limited English speaking skills. In particular, she saw women struggling to convey what they needed in everyday life in places like groceries and drug stores.
This sparked an interest in seeking out a volunteer opportunity where she could help these women improve their communication skills, thereby making day-to-day life easier and more comfortable. She found her opportunity at the South- East Asia Center.
Melissa describes her ESL class as more of a senior group generally made up of women between sixty and eighty years old. Although most of them have been in traditional ESL classrooms, being in a small group of women from the same background but of varying levels has inspired confidence that has helped each of her students to improve.
She likes to be multi-purpose in her lessons, saying that she is not a fan of those teachers and students who are focused solely on grammar. Rather she prides herself on the practicality of her lesson plans, noting that her students don’t have big goals nor does she have big goals for them.
Melissa has made strides with her small group by encouraging them to role play. This was challenging at first but pretend conversations are easier now.
She chooses practical topics so her students can be more independent and less reliant on family members for routine tasks like going to the doctor for specific procedures, how to use Uber, or how to ride the CTA. Her lessons are varied, incorporating audio, video, song and news reports then using these as a catalyst that encourages students to discuss their opinions.
Since Chicago is a multicultural city, Melissa realizes that students will often encounter different accents so she exposes her students to a variety of different voices and accents through audio and video recording.
It is thanks to Melissa’s work that these ladies have a safe place where they can talk with peers about anything and where they can comfortably voice their own opinions, and question other’s opinions using their newfound non-native English speaking skills.