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Meet the Team: Jill Wheeler

Our "Meet the Team" series continues this week with our part-time Family READS instructor, Jill Wheeler! Jill joined us as a volunteer in 2022 and we quickly convinced her to join us as a staff instructor for our Family READS family literacy program. Jill has led two or three classes in each Fall and Spring semester ever since! We asked Jill a few questions so we could get to know more about her and her passion for adult literacy:

What is your favorite thing about working at Literacy NRV?

My favorite thing about working at Literacy NRV is building relationships with the families involved in the Family READS program.

What are your goals for the next few months/years?

As a retired schoolteacher, I would like to continue to work with the families of English learners in the New River Valley. The Family READS program is a rewarding program which combines adult learning for families to support their journey with their children in school.  It supports reading to and with your children, and enriching activities to support vocabulary building.  I am excited to support the fall and spring sessions (seven weeks at two locations) and to continue to grow the programs to increase participation.

This summer I am also excited to volunteer to lead a ZOOM weekly class to focus on conversation building among our adult English learners.

How has your role evolved since you joined Literacy NRV?

I was blessed to meet some of the supporters of Literacy NRV at a Christiansburg Family Fair.   I started to volunteer with this fabulous organization.  I tutored a mom one-on-one and gave her high school son some support and ideas as he was transitioning from high school.  I also began to volunteer with Family READS Blacksburg.  In the winter 2023 I became an Instructor for the Family READS sessions.

What is one thing you wish people knew about our mission?

Literacy NRV needs a wide range of volunteers...with varying time commitments.  For example, we need volunteers to serve in several different roles for the seven-week sessions of Family READS.  We need tutors for our adult learners, and we need volunteers to be with their children (reading, crafting, and helping).  This program has a set night, start date, and end date (and then starts up again!)

Also, the most important part of volunteering is the relationships we build with the participants.  We don't need to speak another language.  We need to care and learn with each other.

What is your favorite LNRV success story?

I have known several families who have been repeat participants in the Family READS program.  One family has been a part of a few sessions. As we were celebrating the last night, one of the participants' children said, "I am really proud of my mom.  She is really learning English now!" 

What have you learned from our students and/or volunteers?

I have learned it is the building of trust among our tutors and adult learners that is essential to the continued success of the Family READS program.  We have tutors and volunteers from local universities and the community who share stories, smiles, and the joy of learning with our families. We also share pizza and bingo! 

What is something you are passionate about?

Family is the most important part of my life.  My husband and I retired and moved here to be closer to our daughter and son-in-law.  We've grown by a granddaughter (3 1/2) and a grandson (1 year).

We are also active in our local Special Olympics Area 9. The SO oath is true for all of us:  Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.  All of the people involved with Literacy NRV are courageous!

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