Tutors appreciated at celebration for International Literacy Day

From Japanese mixed vegetables to simmered pork jjim, a Korean stew, a long, cloth-adorned table of international dishes made up the potluck organized by the Literacy Council of Kitsap last Thursday.

More than 50 students, family members and tutors gathered at the Silverdale Grange. The occasion was honoring the International Literacy Day which was Sept. 8. The intention was honoring the tutors — 173 of them in 2004-05, of which 15 percent were from Central Kitsap.

Kathy Ramsay of Seabeck says the average length of time a tutor stays with the literacy council is six months. But she won’t quit. She has been with the program, tutoring Basic Literacy and English as a Second Language for four-and-a-half years.

“I love reading and I thought that if adults had the guts to come forward and admit they can’t read, I can help them,” Ramsay said.

A retired navy JAG officer, Ramsay had spent time stationed in the Philippines. There she familiarized herself with Asian cultures and now enjoys the ESL portion of her volunteer time the most.

“I was very taken with the whole program,” Ramsay said and quickly added, “This (ESL) is what I actually love best ... because you have to draw both on the student and the tutor. (There is) huge creativity involved.”

Among the 15 students Ramsay has tutored, there were a Liberian, a Libyan, a Russian, three South Koreans, a Filipina and a Turkish woman.

Coming back a day early from a vacation with her husband, Ramsay made it to the potluck just a bit tardy and met up with her student of six months — Chong Skiles.

Skiles, who hails from South Korea, now lives on Fairgrounds Road. She has been in the United States for 20 years and Ramsay is helping her prepare for the citizenship test.

The previous week, Ramsay said the two had just gone over the full text of the national anthem and learned the words.

“Moments like that, they’re Kodak moments,” Ramsay said.

There were plenty of Kodak moments during the potluck as well. Tutors and students mingled and met family members and kept learning little things about each other’s cultures.

Ramsay learned the name of the traditional dress Eun Joo Han Kim was wearing. It is a “han bok” which means Korean dress, Han Kim explained.

Han Kim, a biology teacher in South Korea, said she had moved to Silverdale with her husband and two children in 2002. She tried to take the test necessary to equate her teaching certificate here, but failed the writing portion.

Now she is working with two tutors and volunteers at the literacy council’s office twice a week. She was nervous to get involved on the volunteer side herself but one of her tutors, David Rubens, of Rubens Insurance Agency in Silverdale, encouraged her.

“He pushed me to volunteer there,” Han Kim said. “I love it.”

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