Success Story: Workplace Literacy at Bowdoin College

June’s Success Story is the workplace literacy program at Bowdoin College. Nicole McDonald, a volunteer for MCL, teaches English to two classes of new Mainer employees.

Bowdoin pic for website

She says, “Teaching these classes is one of the highlights of my week. It has been inspiring to see the dedication and hard work that the students/employees put into improving their English in and out of the classroom. During the course of this program, I have seen a significant leap in students' confidence relating to their ability to communicate in English. I have watched them make connections between class materials and what they have encountered in their daily lives, ask insightful questions pertaining to language and culture, and share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with one another. It has been a pleasure to witness the relationships that they have built with each other, spanning ages and cultures, through learning English and working together.”

For their part, every student praised Nicole as a teacher and mentor, mentioning specifically her kindness and patience as she explains what they find confusing. They all reiterated their lack of English at the beginning of the program, but how they now can better manage their daily lives and their jobs. Milagre, the longest tenured employee, says, “I am so busy with work and family that I have no time for Adult Education English classes. This class works with my schedule. Now I can do so much in English and help others.” She is in line for a promotion. Olivier, a new student, adds, “the class has given me the confidence to understand, speak, read, write and explain.” Ricky, a two-year veteran, weighs in simply, with “Nicole needs flowers.” Hakima a newer student, says, “I have friends in the class now. We all talk together.” Nancy has been in Maine for a while but has been most successful learning English here. “I don’t need an interpreter anymore; I can make my own phone calls and appointments.” They are all so excited about learning English at work.

Bowdoin’s program is one of six workplace classes MCL runs in the area. Each is designed to meet the needs of the specific employers, and all are equally successful. MCL hopes to expand this initiative to additional workplaces in the future.