Meet Andrew Lauwagie, December's Literacy Leader
This month’s Literacy Leader is Andrew Lauwagie, a volunteer at Cedar Riverside Adult Education Collaborative (CRAEC). Since May 2016, Andrew has been volunteering each Tuesday morning in a Level 1 ESL class. He gained an interest in teaching English while he was working in a family practice clinic in Minneapolis. Andrew reflects, “I saw how [individuals] were struggling to find jobs and support their families due to their lack of proficiency in English, so I did some online research and came across the Minnesota Literacy Council.” His supervising teacher, Janet Curiel, says, “Andrew has a natural talent for teaching and took on an active role in the classroom.”
Why does Andrew continue to volunteer? He says, “I am always so excited to come back every week, as I can truly see the passion and effort each and every student puts into learning English. Each student seems to have their own motivations for attending class, whether it be finding a job, helping their children with schoolwork, or simply being able to return an item at a department store. No matter the reason for being there, I consistently see the same faces returning to class week in and week out, always eager and ready to learn. Assisting in this learning process in whatever way I can is just that much more rewarding when I know my students are passionate about improving their literacy skills.“
On his way to class, Andrew gears up by spending a few moments reflecting on his personal experience learning a new language. He explains, “It can be easy sometimes to forget how difficult and frustrating the process of learning a new language can be. I actually took Spanish back when I was in high school, and I have certainly not forgotten how frustrated I got when struggling through difficult material. So on my drive to volunteering in the morning, I try to put myself into the shoes of my students, and imagine myself sitting in my Spanish class, as they will soon be sitting in front of me. This technique has helped me empathize with my students, so that I might be able to alleviate some of the frustration that comes with learning a new language.”
Andrew’s best volunteer moments are working with passionate students who never stop working, even during break times. “During break, one learner will request that I sit with her to do some individual one-on-one reading or pronunciation practice. In one of those sessions, we came across a traditional food dish from Somalia called Samosa.” Andrew was unfamiliar with the dish so the learner insisted he try it. The next week, a fresh batch of Samosa was sitting there in class, waiting for him to eat! “It tasted amazing, and even more amazing was realizing how grateful my students are for having me there,” he says.
Andrew describes himself as empathetic, motivated, and determined – qualities that make a stellar volunteer. We thank him for his six months of service!