When Meg Hayes moved to Bellingham in 2012, she found herself frequently passing the building that houses the Whatcom Literacy Council. As a former teacher in Anchorage, Alaska, Hayes, 65, was immediately drawn to the organization.
“One day I just rode my bicycle down and said, ‘Do you need any tutors?’ and they got me signed up,” she says.
Whatcom Literacy Council works to improve literacy among adults in Whatcom County. Volunteer tutors work with students to improve their English and other literacy skills.
Hayes teaches individual learners as well as groups, usually of three to six people. Most classes are taught at a branch of the Whatcom County Library System.
Since becoming a tutor, Hayes has been struck by the dedication of the students, some of whom work a 10-hour shift before coming to class for two hours.
“That is dedication,” she says. “I’m pooped at the end of my workday.”
It’s a very selfish thing to do, because the tutors get as much out of it as the students, I’m convinced.
Meg Hayes, Whatcom Literacy Council tutor
Teaching English isn’t that new to Hayes. In 1988, when she and her husband Pete Tryon, lived in Alaska, they adopted two boys from South Korea. Their sons were 6 and 5 when they were adopted, so they were well established in their Korean culture and language.
“We were off learning Korean because, of course, the kids didn’t know English and we didn’t know Korean,” Hayes says. “That was very exciting.”
Teaching English as a second language helped Hayes and her husband get in touch with members of the Korean community, who their children could grow up getting to know, she says.
From there, Hayes continued teaching until she and Tryon retired to Bellingham. Today, Hayes takes pride in her work with the Literacy Council, and hopes to see more tutors become involved with the program.
“It’s a very selfish thing to do,” she says with a smile, “because the tutors get as much out of it as the students, I’m convinced.”
That’s one of the things about this, is that you’re always helping people meet their goals.
Meg Hayes, literacy tutor
Improving literacy can help people become better parents, improve their job opportunities, become U.S. citizens, further their education, obtain a driver’s license, and improve their daily lives overall.
Having learners come up with their own goals helps tutors to help them be successful, Hayes says.
“My first student wanted to practice conversation, and then she wanted to get her citizenship, then she wanted to get a house, and now she has a job,” Hayes says. “That’s one of the things about this, is that you’re always helping people meet their goals.”
Hayes hopes to do more traveling in the future, but she also looks forward to keep enjoying her time with her students.
“When you do something like that, you can’t help but feel really warm about somebody, that it’s worked out,” she says.
Whatcom Literacy Council