Adult literacy tutors making a difference in students’ lives


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – Improving academic skills and helping students reach personal goals are what volunteers with the community adult literacy program are all about.

The program is available in the local area through the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Schools in partnership with the Dickinson Area Community Foundation.

Volunteer tutors are welcome to join the program to work with students in a variety of areas.

“Tutors want to make a difference in the life of a person who is looking to improve their academic skills and reach their personal goals,” said Wendy Zambon, adult literacy coordinator. It is her job to place students with tutors, who have undergone a training and orientation session. Volunteers just need to fill out forms to ensure safety and security for all the clients.

Support and tutoring is needed in a number of areas including reading, math, grammar, writing and technology, she said.

“We have students currently interested in getting support in our adult literacy program who have skills below the ninth grade level. Some students wish to build skills with no need for a particular credential,” Zambon said.

But she added that other students are looking for help to achieve a high school completion diploma, pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, or the General Educational Development (GED) test, which gives people the opportunity to obtain a high school equivalency diploma.

The program also has students who are trying to break down language barriers and build their English literacy through the English as a Second Language (ESL) program.

“Right now, we have a high demand for tutors. We are actively seeking tutors willing to commit to an hour or two a week to provide this service to our population locally,” Zambon said.

In addition, the program is also seeking trainers, such as former teachers, who could train a tutor to teach a variety of subjects.

“By meeting with a tutor initially, a tutor trainer could pass on various tips to help a tutor move forward in their skill development. This may be a commitment of three hours or so. Arrangements can be flexible as needed,” she added.

As a tutor working with an English as a Second Language program adult student, Bert Peterson agrees.

“I would like to have a volunteer with classroom experience review a class occasionally and make suggestions on how I could be more effective,” Peterson said.

The Adult Literacy Program has recently received some new materials that are aimed at reading, writing and grammar literacy specifically for adult students. Zambon noted that the tutors have reported that there has been great success using these materials.

Peterson added that he uses the Challenger series.

“I feel it uses examples that have meaning to adults,” he said. “The reading and writing examples are more interesting.”

“Since I have an ESL student, I enjoy learning more about her culture and I’m amazed at the hard work ethic she brings to class. I appreciate her desire to speak, read and write English at a higher level than she currently is doing. I look forward to meeting with my student each week. She brightens my day with her enthusiasm,” said one of the tutors.

And her student is equally happy with the program. “I’m so happy I learned English and now I can read a book that I couldn’t read before. I appreciate the program.”

Peterson added that one of the most rewarding aspects of being a tutor was seeing the progress the student makes.

“That gives one a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of value,” he said.

His student wants to expand the hours she receives tutoring now, but needs a tutor willing to support her involvement in the program. She has been involved in the program because she has English speaking family members that live far from the area.

“I want to write letters to them faster without using broken English,” the student said.

She has also felt that the tutoring program has been a great help for her.

“It is becoming easier for me to read,” she said. “And I’m learning new words so I don’t have to look up as many in the dictionary.”

A retired science teacher from Iron Mountain Public Schools, MIlt Wirth, is also finding his work as a tutor to be satisfying.

“It’s great to see how a tutor can face challenging student needs and yet dispel misunderstanding and stereotyping of students. Students can have daily struggles, but tutoring sessions bring consistency and a sense of accomplishment to their lives,” Wirth said.

Zambon added that in the evenings, the instructors for the adult and alternative education classes appreciate the individual and small group support that the tutors provide. Those tutors that come in at that time assist students with specific assignments, remedial activities and other work.

“The beauty of this volunteer service is that arrangements are individual and adaptable to accommodate busy schedules,” Zambon said.

Tutoring is done at the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Community Schools building, which is the former East Elementary School, located 800 East E St. in Iron Mountain.

Hours for tutoring are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.

Zambon said that hours are arranged to accommodate both students and tutors. They stay in touch with each other and meet as agreed.

More information on the tutoring program is available by contacting Zambon at 779-2660 or by e-mail at

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is