Stacey Peper’s humbling experience living abroad gave her motivation to use her English skills to help newcomers in this country learn the language.
“I know what it feels like to be alone in a foreign country and not be able to say the words to express thoughts and feelings,” she says. “You become voiceless.”
As a tutor for Oakland Literacy Council, Stacey has been helping students find their voice for the last eight years. Stacey goes above and beyond to make sure her students make progress in reading, writing, and speaking English.
After coming to Michigan, Stacey studied for and received a 12-credit TESL certificate (Teaching English as a Second language) from Oakland University. She then started volunteering with Oakland Literacy Council. Stacey’s first student, Lillian, was an immigrant from Iraq. Stacey tutored Lillian for a couple of years, but after seeing Lillian make little progress in reading English, Stacey wondered if Lillian had a learning disorder. At her own expense, Stacey underwent a 30-hour training in the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory method aimed at teaching struggling readers. The approach worked with Lillian.
“The best moment with Lillian was when I felt the reading and writing part of her brain was waking up and getting curious after a long sleep,” Stacey says. Today, Lillian happily reads children’s books to her granddaughter.
Students Gain Independence
In addition to reading, Stacey helped Lillian with her listening and speaking skills. Stacey was proud of the day when Lillian told her she no longer feared meeting people. “She knew people would understand what she wanted to say,” Stacey says. “This boosted her confidence, and she discovered her voice.”
Stacey’s student, Kayla, had gone through Pontiac schools in special education learning to read and write but not comprehending the paragraphs she was reading very well. Stacey has helped Kayla with vocabulary so that she understands what she reads. Stacey has also helped Kayla become more independent. Together they studied the material that Kayla would face on the written test for a driver’s permit. Then Stacey connected Kayla with Oakland Literacy Council’s workforce development partner, Michigan Works! so Kayla could get her first job.
By trying to meet students where they’re at and help them achieve their goals, Stacey has become friends with the two women she tutors. “The reason I like tutoring so much is that my students are my best teachers. I learn as much from them as they do from me,” Stacey says. The latest lesson she learned came from Lillian. “She said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a lawyer or have another career or job, when you are educated, good comes from your heart. That is a real education.’ I thought about that and I have to agree with her.”