Student/Tutor Spotlight: Mary Liu & Jami Saladin

Tutor Coordinator, Xeno Carpenter-New talked with Student/ Tutor pair Mary Liu and Jami Saladin about their experiences at Literacy Rochester.

How did you hear about LR?

Mary (M): I got information from the library. Henrietta. I saw the information on the wall, I picked up and made a phone call.

Jami (J): same response… my friend was a tutor 3 or 4 years ago. I was in grad school and working full-time. Once my schedule freed up, I definitely wanted to take a look and see if I could still do it.

What brought you to LR?

M: Because I have a language barrier. And I really wanted to learn and understand English.

J: I had just gotten recently laid off (reading specialist). I just felt like I wanted to do something to help out in the city. I just decided to explore.

How long have you been working together?

M & L: August 2020.

What do you like most about working together?

M: It’s great! I really love my teacher, Jami. Because she is very kind and very professional. I learned a lot from her; not only English, also personality. She has a lot of patience to teach me. My memory is not good. She touches my heart. Even the articles, she teaches me; every article I love very much. There is a lot of meaning for a person’s life to be positive and a lot of encouragement.

J: It’s been wonderful. I think, what means the most to me, is the amount of consistency. I’m in my third job this year, and what’s important to me no matter what’s going on we’re stil going to schedule something. We’re still going to look through our goals. IT’s really important to me to work through goals. We’ve become friends; we share things about our lives. I think that’s really important because you need a strong relationship in order to have the student-tutor relationship.

How has your relationship developed?

M: the relationship between us is great. I’m so thankful and happy. It’s more than I expected. Before I met Jami, I was thinking… “how the teacher going to be?” Received the text: there is a teacher – I was thinking a lot… I imagined the teacher. Once we met, I felt very comfortable and happy. The relationship between Jami and I is wonderful.

J: In the beginning, I emailed you (Xeno), I was so nervous about it. I remember the first day, I was so nervous about logging onto the Zoom sessions. Then, I met Mary. She was so nice and kind and we felt so comfortable immediately. I think for both of us, it was a relief! I felt like this person was going to understand me. Right from the beginning, I established “what do you want to get out of this.” I think establishing from the very beginning we are a team in this, really helps propel the relationship and friendship. And now we talk about our lives, too (beyond how we’re doing beyond the week).


How has the pandemic impacted your ability to achieve your goals as a student/tutor/together?

M: Every time we are on Zoom, we feel like we’re next to each other. We really want to meet face-to-face. I’m looking for work to see you soon.

J: I think, the different situations (traveling, etc), that has made our sessions a lot easier. You can do what you have to in NJ; we can still meet on Wednesday mornings. I think that’s really important, and something we may not have been able to do outside of the pandemic.

What are you studying/working on?

J: Reading articles from NPR, this I believe, instead of the news. Focusing on life lessons. Using vocab to talk about word-endings, synonyms, everyday conversations. Using positive content to help keep ourselves upbeat! Last week, I helped prep Mary for her interview!

M: the first interview was good! Has an on-sight interview next week.

J: Addressing issue vs. barrier. Wanting to build skills and improve!!!!! That’s never a weakness.

M: You (Jami) gives me confidence. You take out the nerves from my development.

Favorite subject to learn and teach?

J: English

M: English reading, I believe I’ve improved my reading skills in English, because now I love to look for English books! To try. That is an improvement from last year. I’m trying to read the bible in English.

What does “Literacy” mean to you?

J: Literacy means to me… building reading and writing skills. Also, being able to understand and communicate all while feeling confident.

M: Literacy means to me… I can get help for language problems. For the learning. It is nice you can find someone who can help you and you can try (to learn). You can learn English and American culture and build a relationship.

Has tutoring/studying changed your life? If so, how?

M: since I started with Jami, I feel like I’m back to when I was young and a student. I feel really happy! I have more energy to do things. I have more confidence to learn. I learn a lot of positive things attitudes from Jami, too. It’s really like an impactful relationship. Taught me to strive and grow; I want to try. It changed my thinking about life; changed what I wanted to do with the future.

J: I think, right now, having the consistency. Having this to depend on has built my confidence. I think moving around the county; it’s tough. Sometimes it’s hard to make a connection. Sometimes it’s hard to see if I’m making a difference. Students walk out the door and I’m not really sure. On-going struggle for teachers; wondering and hoping if we’re not doing enough. Working with Mary, and us both being adults, she is able to say “this helps me, and here’s how.” – it’s nice to hear! That made sense and we can keep moving. It’s helped me feel like I’m helping. It’s been rewarding to watch Mary grow and I’m doing my best to help out in that process; and I feel appreciated.

How did you feel before being helped/going to LR?

M: I don’t have the confidence. I’m looking for a job and think I am not qualified. There are no jobs for me. I was disappointed for myself.

Did you have any concerns about LR? Did they end up being legitimate?

M: I was nervous: is this really the right place for me? Can I really learn? There were a lot of questions in my mind? I remember I walked into LR, I remember the staff was very helpful with information and the test. I met the people there, they helped make me feel better.

J: I was just nervous to see if our personalities would match.

What did you find most valuable about working with LR?

J: being able to make a positive connection! Sometimes me and Mary do sessions before school begins, teachers pop in all the time. Teachers want to look into it!

M: LR, now I really trust. It’s a helpful organization, for someone like me, an immigrant, who has a language [barrier] and wants to learn. It’s a “true” organization. You work very hard for the students and teachers to match each other. I recommend my friends who want to learn to English to go to LR.

What do you feel most proud of?

M: I’m so proud of being a student! Learning English, culture, and even more from Jami!

J: I’m proud of us collectively. To sit here and think it’s been 6 months and not even know. We’ve been consistent and have overcome a number of obstacles. Those haven’t gotten in the way of holding each other accountable.

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