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Volunteer Profile: Janet Whatley


Posted on Thursday, December 2, 2021, at 8:20 AM

Janet Whatley, a VAL volunteer, retired after many years as a professor at the University of Vermont. She earned her Ph.D. in French, and taught courses in French Language and Literature and the Humanities. She spent the early years of her retirement interpreting and translating for Congolese refugees before teaching at VAL. She’s helped New Americans apply for asylum, prepare for LNA courses, and apply for jobs.

Janet brings her talents as a teacher and her advanced linguistic skills to help VAL’s English Language Learners (ELL) find their footing in Vermont.She helps with language practice for acquisition as well as unraveling the types of problems New Americans frequently encounter.

“I’m used to teaching across languages,” Janet said. “My French is particularly helpful working with the Congolese community. I enjoy advising students and the one-on-one human interactions.”

Janet’s work, however, is not limited to helping French speakers. Through the Fletcher Free Library outreach, she worked with two Ukrainian emigrés, professionals in their home countries, advancing their English reading and writing skills via explorations of essays, fiction, memoir, short novels and articles tailored to the women’s fields of interest (e.g., business, economics.). Through VAL, Janet has been tutoring a woman who works as a medical assistant in Vermont, and whose nursing degree from China is not recognized in the United States. Janet supports this woman, a mother of a school-aged child, as she takes courses in Human Development and English Composition, working towards earning a U.S. nursing credential.

Janet also supports emerging readers born in the United States. She mentioned a young man from the Bronx, living in Vermont, with whom she worked for several months. He thought that he could barely read; together they found that he could read better than he realized, which improved his self-confidence.

“Maureen and Julia (VAL Staff) have been wonderful in providing me with teaching materials,” Janet said. “I’ve had to bite the bullet and teach via Zoom (due to the COVID-19 Pandemic), and I’m discovering the advantages this technology can offer.  I’m working with a student from Congo who wants to obtain his citizenship. We’re meeting once a week– across the language barrier, across the Zoom barrier. This is probably the most elementary level of literacy I’ve tried to assist with. His demanding work schedule limits the frequency of our study; however, he has the sense that people here really care about his success.”

“Janet is an amazing volunteer,” said Maureen Cooney-Moore, VAL Volunteer Coordinator in Burlington. “Whether she’s working with Sunda on his citizenship classes, teaching Stephen and Anthony how to read, navigating the medical terminology with Kipene for her LNA class or tutoring Sunshine on her writing assignments for CCV, she’s able to meet the student on their level and work with them  towards their goals. Vermont Adult Learning is fortunate and thankful to have such a dedicated, talented teacher, who has made an outstanding difference in the lives of these students.”

VAL is extremely fortunate that Janet chooses to volunteer to support our students. She brings amazing skill and heart as a teacher. Our students know this and they thrive with her kind and careful instruction.

© Vermont Adult Learning

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