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Amanda: The best thing about all of this is wanting to do it


Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at 12:00 PM

As a student in grade school, Amanda excelled at math and working with her hands. Reading and writing, however, always posed a challenge and she ultimately graduated with a low reading level. “I’d been out of school for probably 34-35 years and I had not yet gotten above maybe low fourth-grade level,” Amanda shared. Over the years, Amanda has relied on the help of friends, family, and the occasional passerby to assist with spur-of-the-moment needs like reading directions to find her way around. “I don’t mind asking questions and I’m not afraid to ask for help.” As a small business owner with a self-built woodworking shop, Amanda has successfully put her strengths to work but her desire to improve in reading, writing, and now digital literacy moved her to pursue tutoring.

When Amanda found Vermont Adult Learning, she had been seeking consistent tutoring for some time. She found a local college student to help her work on her literacy skills, but after a few months, they decided to start a family and no longer had time to tutor. “This happened three different times!” Amanda shared, laughing in disbelief. Thankfully, her persistence paid off when her caseworker helped her find VAL.

Since coming to VAL’s Addison County Learning Center in Middlebury, Amanda has worked closely with adjunct instructor Becky Trombley to strengthen her literacy skills by using the Orton Gillingham Approach which has helped her read paragraphs and understand the content.

 “I wish this program was invented when I was in high school!” Amanda exclaimed. “Every lesson I have to write my alphabet down in cursive. Becky says words, I say them back, we separate them, learn how to spell them, work on vowel sounds and consonants,” she explained. “Becky asks me some of the words I would like to learn how to spell in general. It’s fun!” As her skills grow, Amanda looks forward to reading her woodworking magazines, true stories, and animal stories. 

“Working with Amanda is such a delight,” Becky shared. “She is highly motivated and is interested in so many things. She wants to understand the fine details about how the English language works and she is interested in how people learn. We have had so many great conversations. Also, she has never missed a class!”

This past February, Amanda joined a handful of other students in testifying to members of the House Education Committee at the Vermont State House as part of an Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) advocacy day. She wanted to share her story to help legislators gain a better understanding of adult students and the importance of funding AEL programs. She also wanted to overcome anxiety related to public speaking.

“I wanted to do it to prove to myself that I can still stand up in front of people and not be nervous. That day I choked up but I told Becky I was going to do it no matter what. It’s the fear of standing up and stuttering. I have a hard time but I’m getting more comfortable being on my own. Going to other people’s houses to do carpentry work, I have to come out of my shell.” 

Amanda faced her fears and gave a compelling testimony, which we invite you to read here. Afterward, Amanda joined a large group of adult learners from around the state to observe the legislature from the balcony. The group stood in unison to be recognized by the House when introduced by Rep. Emilie Krasnow, herself a former VAL student. 

“It is rewarding to be part of an organization (VAL) that prioritizes adult literacy and learning,” Becky said. “Our work can strengthen our communities, and I am grateful to be part of that.”

“The best thing about all of this is wanting to do it,” Amanda said. “ I’m not made to do it and that means the world to me.”


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