Thanks to volunteer Joe Distelheim of Hilton Head Island for sharing the story of Annemarie Neubecker, Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry's 2013 Volunteer Tutor of the Year.
"Passion for Teaching"By Joe Distelheim
Just a few years ago, Annemarie Neubecker was capping her career in international education by helping an entire country shape its education policy. These days, she's helping people from more than a dozen countries improve their English right here.
Like most of the other 150 or so people who offer their service as tutors with the Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, she trades the time she gives for the satisfaction she takes from helping adults change their lives.
She brings a lifetime of training and experience to the task, capped by service as a consultant to the education ministry of the United Arab Emirates. But that's not why LVL recently named her its Volunteer Tutor of the Year.
In her less than three years with LVL, she's helped train other tutors, prepared lesson plans and curriculum, and taught English as a second language two evenings a week at the organization's Bluffton headquarters. And she's done so, says her former LVL coordinator, Deborah Wessel, with an uncommon verve.
"The students love her," said Wessel, "because she has a passion for teaching. She's very, very positive -- always smiling."
Neubecker's enthusiasm is genuine.
"My dream was always to teach adults to read," she said. "I'd tell my husband, 'when I retire ...' I thought if we helped adults, it would do so much for the family."
Now she is retired, but hardly sedentary. She and her husband, Gary Moore, also a consultant, live in Moss Creek and have become active in the area. She's an avid tennis player and incoming president of the Okatie Rotary Club.
And she teaches English to immigrants, generally people who attend the two-hour evening classes after working all day. She teaches English language beginners, the most challenging level, in classes that have as many as 15 students.
LVL's English Literacy students are predominantly Hispanic. Neubecker doesn't speak Spanish, but said, "Maybe that's an advantage, because I can't use it as a crutch."
"I push them about speaking right from the start," she said. "I try to blend reading, writing, listening and speaking." She takes pleasure in thinking of activities that make learning fun, and in watching her class jell and the students become friends with each other.
It works. "She's a wonderful and dedicated tutor," Wessel said. "She imparts a love for learning. She lights up a room."
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