Heidi Williams remembers well what it was like to move to a new country as a young girl. Her father was an American soldier stationed in Germany when he met and married her mother. When her family eventually settled in Little Rock, Heidi spoke only German and she recognized “how isolating it can be when you hear all the strange sounds around you and you cannot understand or make yourself understood.” But she quickly adapted to her new surroundings and started to learn English as a second language.
Little Rock has been Heidi’s home for most of her adult life and where she has worked for 43 years as an executive assistant. At her last employer, The Stephens Group, LLC, she had a conversation with a fellow employee about what she would do with her time when she retired. Her friend suggested that she should look into teaching others to read. “I knew I wanted to get involved in some type of community service, but I had not narrowed it down. After some research, I found Literacy Action and learned that the organization works with adult literacy and ESL students.” Based on her personal experience, Heidi felt that she would like to work as an ESL tutor.
After she completed her training, Heidi was assigned an ESL student from Thailand. “I have formal lesson plans for teaching my student to speak and write English, but we try to chat informally for at least 15-20 minutes at each lesson to give her the opportunity to improve her conversation skills.” Heidi adds, “The rewards are knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life by improving language skills and self esteem.”