Sylvia and Sandy Reunite to Study English

July 27, 2021

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Sylvia and her tutor, Sandy at the library


This student-tutor duo has fun working toward an impressive goal.

Sylvia and her tutor, Sandy, have been working together since March of 2019. Sylvia is originally from Korea, and she is studying English as a second language. Her goal is to become a Medical Coder. To qualify, she plans to complete a 14-month program at AACC and pass a Board exam. Today, Sylvia is working on her English language skills as she prepares for community college coursework. A detail-oriented person, she looks forward to achieving her Medical Coding career dream.
Sylvia and Sandy stayed in touch during the pandemic, and Sylvia took online ESL classes at AACC. The two recently reunited to resume in-person tutoring sessions at the library. Here’s how they’ve made a success of their match.
Once a week, Sylvia and Sandy meet for two to two-and-a-half-hour sessions. They are using “Challenger” literacy materials to study English. At each session, the two review Sylvia’s homework, discussing any words or phrases that may be new or of interest, and then move on to the next lesson in the book.
Each section of Challenger opens with a table that lists new vocabulary. If there are words that Sylvia isn’t familiar with, Sandy and Sylvia discuss them. Sandy has a dictionary and a thesaurus on hand for reference. Sylvia then reads a short story or article from the workbook. She notes any words or phrases that are new to her, and she and Sandy talk about them. Sandy maintains a helpful notebook and keeps a running list of vocabulary and expressions or idioms that Sylvia learns as they move through the materials. Next, Sylvia completes exercises related to the reading, and then she marks any corrections once she and Sandy have reviewed the answers.
Through Challenger’s lessons, Sylvia reads about history, geography, American culture, and even biology. Sometimes, Sandy will pull materials from library shelves to deepen Sylvia’s understanding. In follow up to reading about Ireland’s potato famine, Sandy grabbed a library atlas so the two could locate Ireland and discuss emigration from its shores during that period.
Sylvia and Sandy supplement Challenger coursework with novel reading. A librarian recently recommended the award-winning middle reader, “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang, about an ambitious young girl who aspires to a big life beyond the front desk of the family motel where she works. They read the book at the same pace on their own time and talk about it at tutoring sessions, discussing vocabulary, phrasing, characters, and storyline.
“It complements our coursework and helps us with conversational English,” Sandy notes. “She’s learning the nuances of words or phrases.”
For example, “Get out of here!” Sylvia explains. “It means ‘really’? but also ‘get out.’”
Sandy notes that Sylvia has strong study skills and excellent techniques for learning. She is an outstanding student! “Watching Sylvia grow and get to where she wants to be is rewarding,” Sandy adds. “We have fun!”
Sylvia agrees and says that practicing English through one-on-one lessons is effective. She appreciates learning how to use appropriate words in a given situation. “She is learning the nuances of words and phrases,” Sandy says. “One-on-one tutoring is specifically targeted to her needs and her questions.”
As well as being a dedicated student, Sylvia is a mother, wife, and a talented painter and crafter.
Sandy first trained and tutored with the Literacy Council in the 1990s. After retirement from a 40-year career living all over the world working as a civilian for the U.S. military, she rejoined our tutoring ranks in 2019.
“Front Desk” by Kelly Yang is available at
photo of the book "Front Desk"

More Student Success: Congratulations to our Latest High School Diploma Recipient

Through the National External Diploma Program, Literacy Council student Michele earned her high school diploma in June. She has had the same tutor for more than five years. In recent years, they worked on the NEDP. Michele and her tutor resorted to lessons by phone at the start of the pandemic and were able to use Zoom to facilitate lessons since then. Congratulations to this hard-working student! Many thanks to tutor, Kathleen Sievers and to NEDP Counselor Susan Peters for their work with Michele!

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