Retiree Finds His Passion for Tutoring and His Purpose at Project Literacy

“Someone can say one thing and it can change your life. Years ago I was once told, ‘you have a good teaching style’. So when looking for volunteer work, I came across Project Literacy and remembered that statement. I walked into the office and the place was so welcoming; I was so comfortable. That’s what did it, which is how it all began.” – Dennis

Dennis has been tutoring for Project Literacy for nearly 10 years. A retired business owner, he has much experience from his earlier years thanks to varied education and career paths – earning a chemistry degree, becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant and a part-owner of a couple Tim Horton’s franchises, plus running his own wholesale bakery – the amount of knowledge he has to share is immeasurable.

When Dennis started with Project Literacy, he tutored English as a Second Language students in English basics such as grammar, writing and reading. After tutoring English for 2 years, he found his real passion was for tutoring math-related courses. Dennis has tutored many different lessons, from rudimentary math to more-advanced courses such as economics and accounting.

He enjoys teaching math because he sees not only the fundamental need for it, but also the confidence it offers individuals for whom it is a struggle. Dennis explains, “One thing about math is that psychologically, those who do not understand how to do it tend to feel like failures. A huge part of tutoring is getting the learner’s confidence back and opening doors that they sometimes unknowingly shut on themselves.”

Dennis has many stories to share about the individuals he has worked with over the years. One woman he met came to Project Lit­eracy Kelowna Society with no high school education, but with an eagerness to learn and a beautiful personality. He says that after 2 years of working with her, the changes were not only heartwarming but amazing. She was able to do all the necessary upgrading and become a nurse. In fact, many of his learners went into the nursing program.

Dennis tells another story of a lady he tutored who had gone through the Health Care Assistant program. Years later, when a fam­ily friend was ill, an aide had come to take care of her. When the lady looked at Dennis, he recognized her as one of the individuals he had tutored and in that moment the value of Project Literacy and his volunteer work was understood. The individuals tutored at this organization advance their skills and ultimately make a difference in society.

Dennis explains that Project Literacy is very impactful. From his experience, people want to participate in the community, but sometimes do not have the tools to do so. He explains that tutoring through Project Literacy instills confidence in people. They begin to believe things are possible and they gain a chance for success. He explains that some individuals really just lack confidence due to years of being told they cannot do something.

“If someone has a background where they are told they are useless and they won’t achieve anything, then they mentally feel they cannot. But what this organization does, and what I do, is make these individuals feel good about themselves and it passes on into the community. They truly do end up achieving so much.” – Dennis

Dennis recommends that others volunteer their time to tutor if that is their passion. He sees the importance not only for the learn­ers, but also for the tutors. He describes the experience as very rewarding and also explains that he learns along the way as well with different methods of teaching and more tools to do so. He also expresses how encouraging the staff are at Project Literacy and how in one month he received more positive feedback than in his whole life prior to his volunteer work there. He has gleaned a lot from his work at the organization which is why he continues to tutor up to 8 hours a week with various learners.

“I am there to encourage them to be learners, to enjoy learning. I let them see their own talents and man is that ever cool. It is the coolest thing to see when that light goes on for them and they say, ‘I can do this’.”

Project Literacy celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and could not do so without the dedication of tutors such as Dennis. The organization relies heavily on the support of the donors, volunteers and staff members, each helping with the success of Project Literacy its impact on the community.