Thinking outside the box has been a virtual lifesaver for Literacy Alberni Society this past year.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the society to temporarily lock its doors to the public, staff and tutors looked for different ways they could connect with learners. Like so many others, they turned to virtual means until it was safe to re-open the doors for Klitsa Tutoring and LAS learners alike.
On-site tutoring helped learners get through the pandemic school situation, which in turn supported School District 70 teachers, said LAS spokesperson Lesley Wright.
English Language learning options were delivered online so space and scheduling didn’t affect participation. There are now four weekly classes, a conversation group and “coffee celebration” every two weeks open to all LAS members, and there is also homework support for English Language learners.
Rebecca Dixon and Marilyn Gibson ran a book club during the school year for English Language learners, which was well supported by the Vancouver Island Regional Library Port Alberni branch. Library staff would find novel sets for the club to read, then they met once a week virtually to discuss each book.
Last year Literacy Alberni received a $340,000 grant to teach new online training programs, called Project-Based Labour Market Training.
The web development program began 10 months ago. Both intake groups are at the work experience stage, with the first cohort almost ready to graduate and the second cohort preparing to begin their work experience. The WorkBC-supported program was able to proceed because it was all virtual, Wright explained. “None of these participants met face to face, it’s all been done online.”
There have been some unintended consequences to the digital program: positive ones. “We have expanded because we have a digital space,” Wright said. “We don’t have the constraints of the physical learning space like we did.
“We’ve made more interaction with our language learners than we were able to have here just by going virtual.”
They were also able to write a federal grant through Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) which will enable them to upgrade classroom technology and hopefully provide tablets for learners to borrow.
Getting through the pandemic so far wouldn’t have happened without teamwork, says Wright. Despite the initial lockdown, and the remote communication with some members, the staff has pulled together.
“Internally, our work is stronger for the support we give each other as things have transitioned over the past year.”
Externally, the non-profit society will be one of several showcased in a new initiative at the Coulson Building on Third Avenue at Mar Street. They have been granted one of the window displays on the Third Avenue side of the building and among the display is a world map showing where staff and learners are from.
“Our community is comprised of people from all over the world, in this office and among learners. To be offered a chance for a permanent display Coulson offered us to highlight the things that are really important to us, that was something.”