Success Story: Workplace Literacy at Wild Oats

Our October Success Story (also featured in our e-mail newsletter) focuses on Midcoast Literacy’s workplace literacy program for New Mainers working at Wild Oats Bakery & Café in Brunswick.

Wild Oats group class square for web

A major change happened this spring in the community of New Mainers in the area whom Midcoast Literacy has been working with since 2019: many of them got their first work permits. Pivoting to support these learners in their new situation, we launched three workplace literacy programs with local employers, one being Wild Oats. Since late July, MCL tutor Anne Childs has been leading a small group class for employees at Wild Oats every week. She is supported by another MCL tutor, Julie Criscitiello, who collaborates on curriculum and brainstorming lesson ideas. “Working with these English Language Learners has been fun and rewarding,” said Anne. “Although they are tired at the end of a long day at work (they start at 5am!), they bring enthusiasm and a desire to improve their English.”

Together, Anne and Julie have built lessons that combine in-person conversation practice and online computer activities, all oriented to the vocabulary the New Mainers are using on the job. “We try to balance informational lessons around schedules or benefits with topics like recipes, which can lead to animated discussions,” said Anne. And Julie’s work behind the scenes has supported the classes each step of the way. “As a retired teacher, I love talking “shop” and doing what I can to support Anne and the work she is doing,” said Julie. “It’s a wonderful partnership that works for the two of us and the program.”

The workplace literacy program at Wild Oats started with three employees in July, and has expanded as Wild Oats has hired additional English Language Learners over the past three months. “Wild Oats currently employs seven New Mainers and we owe much of our success to Midcoast Literacy,” said Marshall Shepherd, a manager at Wild Oats. “Midcoast Literacy has provided English tutors who have worked directly with our team to create Wild Oats specific lesson plans. Each week we are astounded by the growth in our New Mainers' vocabulary and conversation skills.” Anne also cited the collaboration with Wild Oats as essential to the program’s success: “Wild Oats management prioritize a positive working environment for their employees,” she said. “They have generously supported and encouraged this program from the start.”

Our success working with Wild Oats and other local employers illustrates how “literacy” can be a wide definition, and our programs need to adapt to fill different corners of it as needs arise. Congratulations to Anne, Julie, Marshall, and especially the New Mainers working at Wild Oats, for their enthusiasm and adaptability in launching this workplace literacy program.