KACE tutor guides with gentle patience

After hearing from friends how wonderful KACE (Kitsap Adult Center for Education) could be for those in the community, Bremerton resident Larry MacIntyre had to see for himself.

After hearing from friends how wonderful KACE (Kitsap Adult Center for Education) could be for those in the community, Bremerton resident Larry MacIntyre had to see for himself.

His friends, all tutors, encouraged the retired engineer to seek out a spot as a mentor.

So, in late 2005, the final push happened to be the advertisement in the paper calling for volunteers in the community to join KACE, formerly known as the Literacy Council of Kitsap County. The non-profit organization dedicates resources to helping adults with basic education like reading and writing skills, along with GED preparation.

“When I got the opportunity to have spare time, I decided that’s one of the things I wanted to do. It’s not just a cookbook environment; you have to use your imagination and try to approach it a different way,” he said of tutoring.

According to Ann Rudnicki, KACE executive director, the need for volunteers is tremendous in Kitsap County. MacIntyre is just one of 90 volunteers countywide who participates in tutoring for KACE. All materials and training are provided through KACE to volunteers so they can move forward in properly tutoring students of all ages.

It’s volunteers like MacIntyre — who is willing to work on the needs of ESL students to those needing math help — that keeps KACE going, Rudnicki notes.

“Larry is very low-key and patient, making him very effective in helping students overcome difficulties and frustrations in trying to improve their skills,” said Rudnicki. “As a result, his students show steady improvement as he works with them.”

MacIntyre currently works with an ESL Japanese student who attends Olympic College and wanted to get some help on her English skills. Once a week, the pair sits down together to go over topics unique to the English language.

“English is a difficult language,” he said. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for the fact that they’re trying.”

While it is a learning experience for the student, MacIntyre said he also picks up a thing or two as well. He often resorts to checking his English college handbook to make sure he’s teaching the proper way.

To make learning easier, he keeps an English/Japanese language picture book nearby to help his student make the connections to objects easier. He’ll even search for articles on Japan Today, a website dedicated to Japanese news and discussions.

Euphemisms are the toughest, he noted. Sayings like “fat chance” and “slim chance” are a little bit more difficult to explain to someone whose language is not so embedded in everyday euphemisms.

While teaching can at times be challenging — he once had a Russian student who demanded he help her get rid of her accent — the fact that most of the students he mentors have a basic background in English or math is helpful, he said.

The experience, he said, has made him “more humble” as he’s learned that even an educated person like himself doesn’t know it all. And, sometimes, despite his and his student’s best intentions, he just can’t get through to them, which can be hard, he said.

He had a 50-year-old student who had only had first and second grade math and reading skills. While MacIntyre believes the man may have had a disability, he noted that “he tried hard” and that’s what matters in the end.

Even with his most problematic students, the proud moments stand out like nothing else, he said. The Russian student he tutored ended up going on to get her citizenship as well as a job, a moment that MacIntyre recalls with fondness and happiness.

“That’s the good part of it,” he said. “I think that’s the best part is seeing someone progress and you’re giving them a hand up. This organization is a great organization.”

KACE’s executive director knows that she and her staff could not help as many students if it wasn’t for the volunteers who step forward. In 2011-2012 alone, KACE provided 3,106 hours of instruction to students. Beyond that, 1,342 hours were dedicated to class preparation.

“We always are looking for new volunteers, including as tutors, office assistants and board members. We also would welcome volunteers who have skills with computers or social media,” said Rudnicki. “We simply would not be able to meet the needs of our students without the vast contributions of volunteers. Each volunteer brings a special set of talents to our agency, and they really provide a richness to the organization and most especially to our students.”

Looking to make a difference?

Contact the KACE staff at 360-373-1539 for additional information on how to volunteer.


Know someone who should be recognized for their good deeds?

Send Seraine Page an email at spage@soundpublishing.com with information for a volunteer who deserves to be recognized.