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11 May 2015

Volunteer Literacy Coach Recognition for Ivanoe Cubillos

When Ivanoe came to Canada from Chile, she knew very little English. She was a teacher in her home country, and wanted to do her best for herself and her family. When she arrived, a single mother of two, she was hungry to learn this new language. She started by listening to CBC Radio while she cooked and did house work.

“If we really want to learn a new language we find the ways and another world opens for us,” says Ivanoe.

She worked incredibly hard to improve, and worked towards finishing a Canadian high school education. Once she finished, she went on to college to become a Library Technician.

Her commitment to lifelong learning didn’t end here, nor did it end with herself. She wanted to do something to share her love of learning, knowledge and experience with others in the community.

“Some people may be surprised to see a tutor from another country tutoring a learner from Canada. To some people, that may seem kind of backwards,” says Ivanoe. “But it actually proves something wonderful: that everyone has something to offer, something to share, with another person.”

She began her tutor training with READ Saskatoon in 2007 and very much enjoyed the experience. The training even helped her solidify her own grammar and extended her ability to express herself in the English language.

In 2011, she was matched with Barb, and since then the two have become not only partners in learning, but great friends.

“I’ll never stop loving her accent and her graceful mannerisms from South America!” says Barb. “She is also humble enough to be my friend, and what’s more, she is the kind of friend I adore!”

“Barb is a very good learner,” says Ivanoe. “She is very persistent. I can tell that the work we do together is helping her, and that is very rewarding.”

One of Ivanoe’s favourite moments with Barb was a learning breakthrough they shared. Ivanoe had helped Barb choose a book about Louis Riel, a subject that was interesting to Barb because of her heritage and interesting to Ivanoe who loves learning more about Canadian history and culture. When Barb and Ivanoe met the following week to discuss the book, Barb was overflowing with excitement and questions.

“That started a whole new set of learning, and we continued improving,” says Ivanoe. “It is so important to work with a subject that interests the learner too.”

“Ivanoe is so very lovely to be with every week,” says Barb. “But it blows me away that she does all this work with me for free. What a wonderful gift!”

Barb credits Ivanoe’s help for allowing her to write the nomination for the Sylvia Vicq Tutor Award, which Ivanoe was recently awarded at READ Saskatoon’s Lit Up! auction event. The award, sponsored by Dakota Dunes, is given to an outstanding tutor every year, based on nominations by adult learners like Barb.

“I was a little bit hesitant to accept this award. I didn’t do this for any recognition,” says Ivanoe. “My philosophy is that we should pass on our knowledge, that we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves. That’s just the way it should be with anything – it doesn’t matter, it can be knitting, cooking, math – anything. It is our privilege and our duty to teach the next generation.”

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