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August 2016 Newsletter

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Earn a Gold Medal by Being a Volunteer

Volunteers serve as critical components for adult education coordinators and administrators in meeting the needs of today’s diverse and dynamic adult students. The demographic profile of both adult learners and the volunteer pool is changing in Iowa and across the nation. With classes ranging from pre-literacy all the way through college preparation, there is no question that the need for volunteers has grown in adult education.

While altruism is the obvious reason behind volunteering, there are many other motivational factors to consider when recruiting talented and motivated individuals. Here are the top five considerations in recruiting and including volunteers in adult education and literacy:

1. What’s in it for the Volunteer
As much as volunteer service contributes to a quality adult education program, the program can also provide benefits to the volunteer. Positioning the volunteer role as a means for individuals to learn new skills for career advancement while providing an opportunity for the volunteer to share experiences can expand your volunteer pool of candidates. Students in learning projects, full-time professionals whose employers encourage community involvement, and persons with disabilities who can share their experiences make for great candidates.

2. Recruit for the Passion
There is no question that we all want volunteers who are passionate about helping others succeed, but how do we find them? A great way to start is with your own current and former volunteers who can provide insight into what appealed to them about volunteering for your program. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more Americans volunteer through religious organizations than another other type. Reach out to the organizations in your community as a means of connecting with people who have a desire to serve their communities.

3. Education and Training are Essential
Volunteers are more likely to remain committed to your program if they feel valued and supported in their roles. They need initial and ongoing orientation and training to learn about your program as well as how to perform their specific responsibilities. Don’t assume that the retired teacher has stayed abreast of current teaching methods and is ready for all of the adult education instruction or particulars of a program. Offer and encourage involvement in professional development opportunities. Workshops, seminars, mentorship, and training manuals engrained in the mission of your program are all important ways to provide learning opportunities for volunteers. In Iowa, code stipulates that all volunteer staff shall receive 50 percent of the professional development required for professional staff.

4. Volunteers are not “Second Class”
Keep volunteers visible and don’t silo the services of volunteers. Volunteers frequently say that some of the best learning comes through interaction, experience, and observation, and this won’t happen if they are isolated. Volunteers are also more likely to feel connected to the mission and have high levels of satisfaction and commitment if they feel they are an integral part of the team.

5. Keep it Meaningful
While there will be mundane aspects of the position, refrain from recruiting volunteers for the tasks that you don’t want to do. Rather, make sure to provide experiences so volunteers feel that they get more than they give. Remember that volunteers are valuable assets, and be aware of ways to take advantage of their knowledge, skills, and experience.

By following these simple considerations, programs will find quality volunteers that add rich flavor and experience to our adult learners. Iowa looks forward to reinvigorating the volunteer program through the expansion of Iowa’s Literacy Council, originally developed as Executive Order No. 12, September 6, 1984. The Council is restructuring as a 501 (c)(3) to better serve individuals in need of basic skills and to promote literacy statewide. Under the direction of the Council, a volunteer credentialing model will be offered to ensure reliable, high-quality orientation and trainings for volunteers.

Jenn's Story

After struggling in school, Jenn decided to stop her education. After becoming pregnant with her son she knew she had to return to school. Now that she has obtained her High School Equivalency Diploma she has a brighter future ahead of her. Jenn also earned her certified nursing assistant degree and is on her way to becoming a licensed practical nurse.

View Jenn's story here.

Coordinator Spotlight:

Meet Terri Amaral

Terri Amaral
AEL Coordinator
Iowa Western Community College

How long have you been a coordinator for adult education?
I started as an instructor in 1990. Then, in 1998, I was hired as the AEL Coordinator.

Tell us one thing you enjoy about your position.
I love the students and people I work with.

Tell us about yourself — family, pets, hobbies.
I've been married to my husband, Ron, for 31+ years. Our oldest child, Samantha, is married and lives in a Minnesota suburb. There are no grandchildren yet, but we are always hopeful! Our youngest, Alex, is a senior in high school this year. We live on an acreage a mile outside the Danish community of Elk Horn. I work a couple weekend days a month at the Museum of Danish America and thoroughly enjoy the totally different work experience. I am an avid reader, no favorite genre — I read it all! I love gardening, particularly flowers, but I always manage to grow a few vegetables as well. I have farm cats, and I'm known as the "Cat Lady" by a few of my friends. I also love baseball, our son plays baseball and has since he was little. There is nothing better than coming home from work and sitting in the ballpark watching a game.

Tell us about your best vacation.
My favorite vacation memories have to be from when my parents and my brothers went to Minnesota and spent a couple weeks at my grandparents' farm. We went every year without fail and continued until my grandparents were gone. We were city kids getting to experience life on a working farm. It was located halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth and seemed very remote. We walked in the woods looking for berries, flowers, and other plant life. We helped bale hay, fed the cattle, went fishing, spent time with family and friends and enjoyed every minute.

Why did you choose your profession?
I always knew I wanted to be an educator. While in elementary I definitely wanted to be an elementary school teacher. While in junior high, a P.E. teacher sounded like a great idea. Upon graduation from high school, I decided an elementary school teacher with a coaching minor was the way to go. I have always loved school. To this day, I get excited when the school supplies come out in the stores. New pens and pencils, notebooks, file folders...I may have hording tendencies. I first became aware of adult education during my student teaching (I didn't know such a thing existed prior to this). Little did I know then that it would become a big part of my life. When my daughter was little I got a part-time job working with adults and loved it. The rest is history.

If you could master one skill you don't have right now, what would it be?
I would love to learn and become fluent in another language. I know a little Spanish and would probably pursue this as the language of choice.

Inspire Success 

Your Future Starts Here Iowa wants to help people share their stories. As an adult, it can be a daunting task to earn your HSED, start an ESL/ELL program, further your education or begin your career, but now, more than ever, is the time to start. Share your story and encourage someone to forge their path today!

START TODAY · 1.800.316.6850 ·

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