VAL volunteer Marion Cushner lives in Williston. She moved to Vermont from San Diego to be closer to her grandchildren. Marion serves on her local Restorative Justice Board, swims, walks and enjoys playing mahjong. VAL is fortunate that Marion has made time to volunteer as a beloved tutor for nearly a decade.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and my family moved to California after I graduated,” Marion said. “At the time, the two primary careers open to women were teaching and nursing. San Diego State had a very strong education program so I chose to study Elementary Education. I enjoyed it and took to it right away.”
Marion’s favorite teacher when she was growing up was Miss Friedman at her Broolyn public school. Friedman was strict, but not mean. She was insistent that her sixth graders learned how to write well in cursive, an important part of the curriculum.
“Teachers didn’t really share stories about their personal lives during that time,” Marion said. “Somehow, my classmates and I learned that Miss Friedman was going to Europe during summer vacation. We decided to buy her a gift. Each kid chipped in $1 for her suitcase.”
When Marion moved to Vermont, she volunteered with elementary school-aged children in her grandchildrens’ school. She eventually chose to shift to working with adults. She visited the Vermont Agency of Education website and learned about VAL.
“I taught children my whole career,” Marion said. “I thought it would be a new experience to teach adults. My first assignment was with a woman from Burundi who was taking an English (ELL) class and needed a little extra help. I worked with her on everyday learning activities. We’d read ads from the supermarket and I’d help her understand the cost of things. We worked together for three years and she made good progress in speaking, reading and writing simple sentences and paragraphs.”
Marion explained that volunteering gives her a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction and completion. She likes seeing her students make progress as a result of their working together. Marion also assisted in VAL ELL classroom settings, pre-pandemic.
“I might split off with three or four women who needed extra help. We formed friendships, hugging each other at the start of class. Sadly, COVID ended that,” Marion said. “We still meet online. These women are diligent and show up every week. They are writing their own stories and reading their own stories. Working with members of the Somali community has taught me that they are very close-knit.”
“I still enjoy teaching,” Marion said. “Once a teacher, always a teacher. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to see the progress my students make!”
“Marion brings so much joy with her when she meets with her students,” VAL Volunteer Coordinator Maureen Cooney, said. “Her love of teaching and respect for our New Americans makes her an invaluable member of our community of volunteers. Her smile is engaging and encourages the students to continue to learn about their new language and country without fear of ‘making a mistake’ or ‘asking a wrong question.’ She not only cares about their educational progress, but also makes sure they have warm winter coats for their children.”
VAL is very fortunate that Marion chooses to volunteer with our students! To learn more about VAL, visit www.vtadultlearning.org.