English program thriving
Arizona Republic
Jul 31, 2008

by Megan Gordon - Jul. 31, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

In a small classroom at the Avondale Civic Center Library, four students listen and watch their tutor in front of the room.

"The woman is giving the book to the boy," Kathleen Cabraja, volunteer tutor for the Southwest Valley Literacy Association, said while teaching the class about indirect objects. "Repeat after me, 'The woman is giving the book to the boy.' "

The small class struggled to repeat Cabraja's sentence. Most of the students know only the English that Cabraja has taught them.

These students are part of the non-profit's mission to teach English to southwest Valley residents.

Thirty years ago, a Buckeye librarian became concerned about the number of adults who could not speak, read or write English, association President Carlos E. Galindo said. Dorothy Huntsman, a longtime Buckeye resident, decided to tutor adult students.

Today, the program serves about 130 students and has about 65 volunteer tutors.

"I started a year ago when I took the training course," said Cabraja, a retired attorney from Pittsburgh. "I was looking to do something that was meaningful when I moved here."

Cabraja's father was born in the United States, but he grew up in Yugoslavia. He moved to Pennsylvania at age 17.

"My father did not speak English, and there was a woman in town that taught everyone English," she said. "That was one of the reasons I wanted to help with this program."

The program teaches English using the Laubach Method, which implements images to encourage students to use critical-thinking skills and imagination.

"I think the method is rewarding for the tutor," Galindo said. "And, at the same time, the students are also grasping her (the tutor's) knowledge."

The program is free for students, except for a $10 book.

Cabraja's native language is English. She tutors students from many countries without speaking a word of their language.

For more information, visit swvalleyliteracy.org.