This week’s guest writer is a tutor for the PAL (Parent Advocate for Literacy) program as offered through A Community for Education. ACE is one of the community programs St. David’s funded in 2012 in the form of a grant from Next-To-New. On September 8, we will announce this year’s grant recipients. Thank you to everyone who supports Next-To-New and the transformation it allows in our city.
By Olga Núñez, ACE Parent Advocate for Literacy (PAL), 2010-2013
I first became involved with ACE: A Community for Education in 2009. I was working in a hotel when my daughter started Pre-Kindergarten at the Lucy Read Pre-K Demonstration School in north central Austin. At this point, I wanted to spend more time and be more involved in my daughter’s education. I heard about ACE’s First Teacher Parenting Workshop at Lucy Read, and I signed up for the class. I had the pleasure of meeting Carolina Guajardo, an ACE staff member who was the presenter of the First Teacher workshop. Every time I attended the class and when I visited my daughter’s classroom, I noticed that there was a young lady working with the children in small group activities. One day I asked Carolina what these people were doing in the classrooms. She shared all the information about the ACE PALs (Parent Advocate for Literacy) program and told me that they were looking for new people to join the program the following year. Joining the program meant that I would become a part-time AmeriCorps tutor for ACE and work with Pre-K students in small groups helping build their pre-reading skills. At that moment I thought, “Oh wow! This is the opportunity I have been looking for all these years!” It was amazing to see this opportunity as a chance to support children who were in Pre-K like my daughter.
Being a literacy tutor with ACE has been the most wonderful experience of my life. As an ACE PALs tutor I received excellent trainings that prepared me to deliver high quality lessons to our students and parents. For the last three years I was able to learn new skills in early literacy intervention; teaching the children letter recognition, letter sounds, and helping build other academic skills such as number, color, and shape recognition; and having conversations with the students with the purpose of building new vocabulary.
Also, I participated as a presenter of ACE’s First Teacher Parenting Workshop in 2011-2012 and ACE’s Play and Learn Family Literacy Workshop in 2012-2013. The PALs program allowed me to help parents in our community learn different skills and tools to support their children in school. This program not only helped me grow as a person, but it also helped me grow as a professional. ACE is a program that prepares tutors in a way that anyone can be a natural teacher. The program provided other professional development trainings that taught me new skills and helped me to be ready for new challenges in my life. With the training and experience I have working in schools, I’m no longer afraid to apply for other education jobs. I seek to find a position in the Austin Independent School District.
As an ACE AmeriCorps tutor, I earned an education award and have been able to use it at Austin Community College (ACC) to further my education. This year I registered at ACC and am working to earn my ParaEducator Certificate with a focus on special needs children and my Child Development Associate Certification so I can work as an assistant teacher this coming year. My ultimate goal is to become a bilingual teacher to help children in the Hispanic community learn crucial skills, like the alphabet, and graduate Pre-K reading and writing!
Thank you, ACE, for planting the seed in me about the things we can give and do for our community. Thank you, ACE, for the great opportunity you gave me in making a difference in every child’s life and getting things done for America!