The best part is when people ask ‘do you speak English?’ I get to say ‘yes!’
When Carriage House at Lee’s Farm resident, Rena, first moved in 4 years ago, she offered to teach English as a Second Language to anyone who was interested. Over the years, Rena has helped with translations and small projects but it wasn’t until she started working with Carriage House Housekeeper, Viviana, that she was able to dive into the world of teaching English as a Second Language again.
We sat down with Rena and Viviana (and Rena’s beloved dog) to learn more about how their meetings got started and what each of them gains from this new found friendship.
Question: Let’s get to know you both, how long have you lived or worked at Carriage House? Share a little bit about yourself!
Rena: I am Rena, I first came to the United States from Greece on a scholarship to go to college. I went to Michigan State University, where I earned my Masters Degree in teaching English as a Second Language. A little bit more about me, I was married for 65 years, my husband and I moved to Carriage House together about 4 years ago but sadly he has since passed away. At times I still feel a little shell shocked about losing him. Working with Viviana has become such a good thing for me. She is so very nice and I love working with her.
Viviana: My name is Viviana and I came from Guatemala. I’ve worked at Carriage House for almost 4 years.
Question: Can you tell us how this relationship first began? How did you come to know each other?
Rena: Her boss, who is very fond of her and knows what a tremendous worker she is, came to me and asked if I could help Viviana with her English. That’s how we got started! You see, when I first came to Carriage House 4 years ago, I told them that I was willing to teach English as a Second to Language to anyone that wanted to learn. Over the years, off and on, some of the resident care associates have come to me with certain questions, and I was able to answer and help, but it was not formal. Nothing like the work I’ve done with Viviana. Viviana had the help and approval of her boss who pushed her to learn.
Question: Viviana, how has learning English impacted your life?
Viviana: It’s impacted me because I try to understand when people talk. It’s starting to feel more comfortable. Rena helps a lot!
Question: Are there any memorable moments that have happened during your English lessons that you want to share?
Rena: Viviana is a person that works hard, no matter what she does and our lessons are no different. After she finishes work we meet for about 45 minutes and then she has to run to the bus station to pick up her niece. We try to use our time as much as possible. I have a little dog that loves her and he becomes a little bit of a distraction, but we love him anyway.
The most memorable part is not what occurs during the lessons, it is what we have become. We are not only good friends, but a little more.
She is like my granddaughter and I do have a granddaughter, about her age. Viviana will come and wake me up, you should know I don’t like to get up in the morning. Viviana comes in with a cup of coffee. She’ll walk in saying, ‘Good Morning Rena, come on, it’s time to start the day.’ It’s so sweet, it is very nice to have someone to come and wake you up with a cup of coffee.
Question: How has your relationship evolved over the course of your lessons?
Viviana: Rena is very nice and tries to push me. She helps me a lot. Sometimes she is very strict, and sometimes I think ‘oh my god’ but sometimes I think about how good it is for me and I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Question: Any challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
Rena: Last September, when she first came to me, I had asked her, ‘where do we start?’ Then, when she started night school, I knew that I needed to go along with what the school was teaching. I knew that if I had to go deeper than what the school was teaching, I would go deeper. It was interesting, in the beginning she got some little books for very young kids. She had a very hard time reading those. Now, she’s reading books. What she likes to read are comic books. It’s not something that comes easy to her, but she does it. Viviana knew some vocabulary, but she was too shy to say two words.
Question: Viviana, has learning English created new opportunities, either personally and professionally?
Viviana: Yes, the best part is when people ask ‘do you speak English?’ I get to say ‘yes!’
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